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Eastern Conference preseason rankings

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The Eastern Conference rankings look a fair bit different from 12 months ago. Rosters have changed significantly over the summer, though the East remains in the shadow of the West after Kawhi Leonard left the Toronto Raptors for the Los Angeles Sun.

1) Philadelphia 76ers

They are enormous and stacked with talent. The offence might be clunky at times, and Joel Embiid will need to be carefully managed, but the defence will be able to shutdown any opponent. Ben Simmons shooting jumpers would make them the title favourite.

2) Milwaukee Bucks

The loss of Brogdon will hurt. They’ll still be unstoppable in the regular season, but Eric Bledsoe in the postseason is now a trend rather than a blip. Philadelphia would be the favourites in a fully healthy, seven-game series.

3) Toronto Raptors

The reigning champions might have lost far more than they added, but they’re still going to be very good. Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby are an excellent young core surrounded by established, still effective, veterans.

4) Brooklyn Nets

Kyrie Irving is an upgrade on D’Angelo Russell. A healthy Caris LeVert could/should be an All-Star. Kenny Atkinson has built something in Brooklyn – they could be a second-round team even without Kevin Durant.


5) Boston Celtics

Kemba Walker is great, but interior defence will be a problem. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum need to prove it before the Celtics can be considered the third best team in the East. Gordon Hayward returning to Jazz form would be a Conference changer.

6) Miami Heat

Reliant on Jimmy Butler being healthy and engaged, which he should be. Justise Winslow and Bam Adebayo are candidates for Most Improved Player, Tyler Herro is ready to hit the ground running. The inevitable midseason trade could force them up to three.

7) Indiana Pacers

The Victor Oladipo injury relegates the Pacers down the list. Losing Thaddeus Young and Bojan Bogdanovic will hurt, Malcolm Brogdon is an exciting addition. How Oladipo returns will make a big difference – they could rise into the top four.

8) Orlando Magic

Could be the three seed, could be battling for a postseason spot. That’s the life of a lot of the Eastern Conference. Markelle Fultz is the wildcard, Aaron Gordon is their most realistic chance of become a top four team.

9) Chicago Bulls

Maybe more fun than effective, the Bulls have talent. Thaddeus Young, Otto Porter and Tomas Satoransky were all good additions. The Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter triumvirate has tremendous upside.


10) Detroit Pistons

Blake Griffin is so, so good. They never stood a chance against the Bucks last season, but it was such a shame that Griffin wasn’t fully healthy after carrying Detroit into the playoffs. Derrick Rose will be important in a weak backcourt.

11) Atlanta Hawks

A hard team to place. Trae Young and John Collins have genuine star potential. De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish could be good straight away. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Hawks several spots higher before Christmas.

12) Washington Wizards

Rui Hachimura has been hyped up – Washington need all the reasons for optimism they can get right now. Their positioning here is all about Bradley Beal, though.

13) Cleveland Cavaliers

Kevin Love is still really good. If healthy and untraded, he’ll make the Cavs not terrible. Darius Garland and Collin Sexton together in the backcourt is going to be interesting after comparisons to Lillard and McCollum.

14) New York Knicks

A disappointing summer leads into an uninspiring season. Mitchell Robinson, Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith Jr. and RJ Barrett will be worth watching on some nights. Hopes of a playoff spot are very optimistic.

15) Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte won seven games as the Bobcasts in 2012/13. At least it probably won’t be that bad this season.

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