Shaping the Eastern Conference in 2016-17

Scott Cunningham/NBAE/Getty Images

For the first time in recent memory, I see the NBA’s Eastern Conference being significantly better than the West. Here’s a rough estimate on how I see things shaking out. 
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: (61-21)

 The defending champion Cavaliers won’t face a huge battle in the race for the East’s #1 seed. They should once again cruise to the Eastern Conference Finals and probably to their third straight NBA Finals barring a major injury.

2. Toronto Raptors (51-31)

 Coming off the most successful season in franchise history, they didn’t do much to improve this summer. However, they are good enough to earn the second seed behind the Cavs again.  

3. Atlanta Hawks 50-32

The Hawks will be a big question mark this season. Will Dwight Howard bounce back to his old self in Atlanta? Can Dennis Schroeder fill Jeff Teague’s void? Will Kent Bazemore live up to his new contract? 

4. Boston Celtics 49-33

People think the addition of Al Horford makes the Celtics a contender but I disagree. The Celtics overachieved last year and will show little improvement in the improved East. 

5. Indiana Pacers (47-35)

The Pacers quietly had one of the best off seasons in the Eastern Conference adding Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young, and Al Jeffersom. But I can’t see the Pacers better than the four teams mentioned above.

6. New York Knicks (45-37)

Joakim Noah after signing with the Knicks

Health! Can they stay healthy?!

7. Chicago Bulls (45-37)

On paper, the Bulls could have a solid squad. However, I think they will face major chemistry issues with their lack of three point shooting and ball dominant players. 

8. Detroit Pistons (42-40)

Any other year in the East, I’d have Detroit higher than an eight seed but the East is so incredibly deep this year. 

9. Washington Wizards 41-41
Once again, Washington will find themselves wasting another year of Wall’s prime.
10. Charlotte Hornets 41-41
Felt so wrong leaving Charlotte on the outside looking in but I can’t see them being better than many of the teams listed above. 

11. Milwaukee Bucks 37-45
Milwaukee will once again be a huge question mark. If they can develop some chemistry they could find themselves sniffing the eight seed.

12. Orlando Magic 37-45
Another team who in a normal year in the East would probably be able to make the playoffs.
13. Brooklyn Nets 29-53
The Nets have a decent young core, but it’s not ready to win yet. They’re finally out of “Cap Hell” however which is great for their future. 
14. Miami Heat 27-55
Based on Bosh not returning. The Heat face a rebuild after the shocking departure of Wade. Can Dragic and Whiteside lead them to 30 wins?

15. Philadelphia 76ers 20-62
#TrustTheProcess Small steps. Maybe in 2017-18 they can win 30. 

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments section or feel free to @ me. Let’s discuss!

Phil Veasley

If anyone is interested in becoming a member of HawksTalk, contact @ATLHawksPhil

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