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A look at each team in the Eastern Conference – The Denver Post

A look at each team in the Eastern Conference – The Denver Post



LAST SEASON: 55-27, misplaced in Eastern Conference finals.

COACH: Brad Stevens (sixth season).

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE: G Jaylen Brown (14.5 ppg), G Kyrie Irving (24.four ppg), F Jayson Tatum (13.9 ppg), F Gordon Hayward ( ppg; performed one recreation final season), C Al Horford (12.9 ppg).

KEY LOSSES: G Shane Larkin, C Greg Monroe

KEY ADDITIONS: F Robert Williams, G Brad Wanamaker, G P.J. Dozier

PLAYERS TO WATCH: All eyes are on Hayward coming off his surgical procedure and rehab from the ugly left ankle damage he suffered in the season opener final season. After almost a yr away from enjoying 5-on-5 basketball, he says he’s again to 100 %. The similar is true for level guard Kyrie Irving following a pair of surgical procedures on his left knee that brought on him to overlook the finish of the common season and playoffs. Irving’s additionally pledged his allegiance to Boston, saying lately that he meant to re-sign with the Celtics in 2019.

OUTLOOK: With LeBron James now in the Western Conference, the Celtics enter this season as the presumptive favorites in the East. The accidents to Hayward and Irving gave Brown and Tatum an opportunity to shine and each younger emerged as budding stars. After re-signing reserve guard Marcus Sensible, Boston enters the season with a roster that’s almost absolutely intact from a yr in the past. The Celtics have been one in every of the league’s prime defensive groups a final season and are anticipated to be there once more beneath the defensive-minded Stevens. The problem for the sixth-year coach might be getting this gifted group to share the ball.


LAST SEASON: 28-54, missed playoffs.

COACH: Kenny Atkinson (third season).

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE: G D’Angelo Russell (15.5 ppg), G Allen Crabbe (13.2 ppg), F DeMarre Carroll (13.5 ppg), F Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, (13.9 ppg), C Jarrett Allen (eight.2 ppg).

KEY LOSSES: G Jeremy Lin

KEY ADDITIONS: F Ed Davis, G Shabazz Napier, F Jared Dudley, F Kenneth Faried

PLAYER TO WATCH: Russell was averaging 20.9 factors via 12 video games earlier than hurting his knee final season and couldn’t get again to that degree as soon as he returned. Nets want the No. 2 decide in the 2015 draft to have greater than only a good brief stretch and grow to be a constant level guard throughout a whole season.

OUTLOOK: The Nets made an eight-win enchancment final season that was bettered solely by Philadelphia amongst Eastern Conference groups. They consider the gamers they acquired in free company will enhance their weaknesses in protection and rebounding and assist them make much more strides in 2018-19.


LAST SEASON: 29-53, missed playoffs.

COACH: David Fizdale (first season, third NBA season).

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE: G Trey Burke (12.eight ppg), G Tim Hardaway Jr. (17.5 ppg), F Kevin Knox (rookie), F Lance Thomas (four.1 ppg) or Kristaps Porzingis (22.7 ppg), C Enes Kanter (14.1 ppg).

KEY LOSSES: F Michael Beasley, F/C Kyle O’Quinn

KEY ADDITIONS: F Knox, F Mario Hezonja

PLAYER TO WATCH: Knox. The No. 9 decide in the draft from Kentucky was certainly one of the greatest performers in the Summer time League, began robust in the preseason and appears to have the expertise and confidence to proceed to play nicely as soon as the actual video games arrive.

OUTLOOK: Porzingis stays out whereas recovering from a torn ACL and it’s unknown when he’ll return, so the Knicks start the Fizdale period with out their greatest participant. However they’re targeted on rebuilding patiently and gained’t fear an excessive amount of about their report or dashing the All-Star ahead again earlier than he’s utterly prepared.


LAST SEASON: 52-30, misplaced in Eastern Conference semifinals.

COACH: Brett Brown (sixth season)

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE: G Ben Simmons (15.eight ppg), G JJ Redick (17.1 ppg), F Robert Covington (12.6 ppg), F Dario Saric (14.6 ppg), C Joel Embiid (22.9 ppg).

KEY LOSSES: F Marco Belinelli, F Ersan Ilyasova

KEY ADDITIONS: F Wilson Chandler, G Zhaire Smith, G Landry Shamet

PLAYER TO WATCH: Markelle Fultz was the No. 1 decide of the 2017 draft and was anticipated to team with Simmons and Embiid to type a Huge Three nucleus. Fultz as an alternative was an enormous bust. Fultz’ pitiful rookie yr derailed by a mysterious shoulder damage, a damaged shot and confidence points. He performed the first 4 video games, missed 68 video games due to damage, then was persona non grata in the postseason. He stated he took 150,000 photographs together with his shot physician this summer time and even made a Three-pointer in the preseason after not making one final season.

OUTLOOK: The Sixers underwent their roster-stripping ‘Process’ as a result of they have been uninterested in being mediocre with no sensible hope of enchancment. But when Fultz doesn’t make a leap, they’ll be caught as a 50-win team that may’t get previous the second spherical of the playoffs. There are worse issues, however the finish results of the Course of was purported to be a championship and followers are getting stressed.


LAST SEASON: 59-23, misplaced in Eastern Conference semifinals.

COACH: Nick Nurse (first season).

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE: G Kyle Lowry (16.2 ppg, career-high, 5.6 rpg), G Danny Inexperienced (eight.6 ppg, San Antonio), F Kawhi Leonard (16.2 ppg in 9 video games, San Antonio), F Serge Ibaka (112.6 ppg), C Jonas Valanciunas (12.7 ppg).

KEY LOSSES: G DeMar DeRozan, F Jakob Poeltl

KEY ADDITIONS: Leonard, Inexperienced, C Greg Monroe

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Leonard shall be underneath intense scrutiny in his first season with Toronto, and his final earlier than free company. A former Defensive Participant of the Yr and NBA Finals MVP, Leonard was restricted to 9 video games final season due to a thigh damage, and his relationship with the Spurs soured throughout his prolonged rehab. The Raptors will hope Leonard likes his time north of the border sufficient to signal a long-term cope with Toronto subsequent summer time.

OUTLOOK: A lot has modified since Toronto set a franchise document with 59 wins final season. The Raptors fired Coach of the Yr Dwane Casey and changed him with Nurse, a first-time NBA head coach. Toronto additionally traded franchise icon DeMar DeRozan and C Jakob Poeltl to accumulate Leonard and Inexperienced from the Spurs. The Raptors have to brush apart the challenge of Leonard’s future and use the common season to get snug collectively to allow them to concentrate on postseason success.



LAST SEASON: 27-55, missed playoffs.

COACH: Fred Hoiberg (fourth season).

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE: Kris Dunn (13.four ppg), G Zach LaVine (16.7 ppg), F Justin Vacation (12.2 ppg), F Jabari Parker (12.6 ppg, Milwaukee), C Robin Lopez (11.eight ppg).

KEY LOSSES: G Jerian Grant, G David Nwaba

KEY ADDITIONS: Parker, F Wendell Carter Jr., F Chandler Hutchison

PLAYERS TO WATCH: F Lauri Markkanen is predicted to overlook the first few weeks due to a excessive grade lateral elbow sprain he suffered in follow. From Finland, Markkanen, averaged 15.2 factors and seven.5 rebounds in 68 video games as a rookie final season. The Bulls are relying on LaVine to point out he may be the cornerstone piece they envisioned once they acquired him together with Dunn and the rights to Markkanen from Minnesota for Jimmy Butler in the 2017 draft night time commerce. He was restricted to 24 video games final season, lacking the first 42 whereas recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee after which sitting out the ultimate 14 due to tendinitis in the similar knee. That didn’t cease Chicago from matching Sacramento’s four-year, $80 million supply sheet for LaVine.

OUTLOOK: Although the Bulls hardly look like contenders in the Eastern Conference, the potential to make a bounce is there. That hinges on enchancment from Markkanen, LaVine and Dunn, Parker staying wholesome and contributing, and perhaps Carter chipping in after being drafted with the No. 7 general decide.


LAST SEASON: 50-32, misplaced in NBA Finals.

COACH: Tyronn Lue (fourth season).

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE: G George Hill ( ppg), G Rodney Hood (14.7 ppg), F Kevin Love (17.6 ppg), F Cedi Osman (Three.9 ppg), C Tristan Thompson (5.eight ppg).

KEY LOSSES: F LeBron James, F Jeff Inexperienced, G Jose Calderon

KEY ADDITIONS: Rookie G Collin Sexton, F David Nwaba, F Sam Dekker

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Sexton and Osman. The No. eight general decide in the NBA draft, Sexton might fill the large void left when the Cavs granted Kyrie Irving’s commerce demand and dealt him to Boston final yr. Hill can adequately maintain down the fort whereas Sexton, extra of a slasher than shooter, develops. Lue will probably be affected person with Sexton, however it might not take lengthy for him to drive his method into the beginning lineup. Osman has the misfortune of being the participant to take the spot owned by James. However the 23-year-old is fearless, very gifted and he discovered a ton whereas being teammates with the world’s greatest participant.

OUTLOOK: Overlook the Finals. After 4 straight June matchups with Golden State, the Cavs may have a troublesome time even making the playoffs. Love has gone from being the third choice, to the second to the first and it is going to be fascinating to see if the All-Star can carry the Cavs the means he carried Minnesota for six seasons. The Cavs haven’t any intention of tanking, and head into the season making an attempt to remain aggressive whereas creating younger gamers — and that’s not straightforward.


LAST SEASON: 39-43, missed playoffs.

COACH: Dwane Casey (first season, 10th NBA season).

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE: G Reggie Jackson (14.6 ppg), G Reggie Bullock (11.Three ppg), F Stanley Johnson (eight.7 ppg), F Blake Griffin (21.four ppg), C Andre Drummond ( ppg).

KEY LOSSES: F Anthony Tolliver, F James Ennis III

KEY ADDITIONS: G-F Glenn Robinson III, C Zaza Pachulia

PLAYER TO WATCH: Jackson. The Pistons have been off to a pleasant begin final season earlier than their level guard went down with an ankle damage in late December. He ended up enjoying solely 45 video games.

OUTLOOK: It was an offseason of upheaval for the Pistons, with Casey changing Stan Van Gundy as coach, however Detroit isn’t precisely beginning over. The roster is just about the similar, and now Griffin has a bit extra time to mesh with the Pistons after coming over in a midseason commerce. At full power, Detroit might be a team to observe in the Eastern Conference, however good well being isn’t precisely a given with Jackson and Griffin.


LAST SEASON: 48-34, misplaced in Eastern Conference first spherical.

COACH: Nate McMillan (third season).

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE: G Darren Collison (12.four ppg, 5.Three assists), G Victor Oladipo (23.1 ppg, 2.36 steals), F Bojan Bogdanovic (14.Three ppg) , F Thaddeus Younger (11.eight ppg, 6.Three rebounds), C Myles Turner (12.7 ppg, 6.four rebounds, 1.82 blocks)

KEY LOSSES: G Lance Stephenson, C Al Jefferson

KEY ADDITIONS: G Tyreke Evans, F Doug McDermott, F Kyle O’Quinn, G Aaron Vacation

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Oladipo spent most of the offseason fine-tuning his recreation in hopes of proving his first All-Star look was no fluke. He must reveal he can nonetheless excel whereas being the focus of opposing defenses. Turner labored on getting stronger and extra versatile, hoping it should make him a greater rebounder and extra constant defender. Evans and McDermott add scoring punch off the bench.

OUTLOOK: Final yr’s shock ascension in the Eastern Conference could possibly be simply the begin. The whole beginning lineup returns intact together with the prime two bench gamers (Domantas Sabonis and Cory Joseph). Evans, McDermott and O’Quinn ought to strengthen the bench. And if final yr’s first-round decide (T.J. Leaf) and this yr’s prime decide (Aaron Vacation) produce as McMillan believes they will, they might turn out to be a critical menace to convention favorites Boston and Toronto.


LAST SEASON: 44-38, misplaced in Eastern Conference first spherical.

COACH: Mike Budenholzer (first season, sixth NBA season).

PROJECTED STARTINGN FIVE: G Eric Bledsoe (17.eight ppg), G Malcolm Brogdon ( ppg), F Giannis Antetokounmpo (26.9 ppg), F Khris Middleton (20.1 ppg), C Brook Lopez ( ppg)

KEY LOSSES: F Jabari Parker, G Jason Terry

KEY ADDITIONS: Lopez, F Ersan Ilyasova, G Pat Connaughton, rookie G Donte DiVincenzo

PLAYER TO WATCH: What’s subsequent for Antetokounmpo enjoying beneath a brand new system with a brand new coach? Budenholzer is stressing spacing and perimeter capturing, which might open up extra 1-on-1 alternatives to the lane for the 6-foot-11 ahead with freakish athleticism. With LeBron James leaving Cleveland for the Lakers, Antetokounmpo might emerge as the greatest participant in the East.

OUTLOOK: Expectations are up with the Bucks shifting into a brand new area and a brand new coach taking up with a monitor document of profitable in the playoffs. The Bucks have made the postseason three out of the final 4 years. To take the subsequent step, they need to safe a top-four seed and/or at least advance out of the first spherical. Core gamers Middleton and Bledsoe are additionally getting into the final years of their respective contracts, although Middleton has an choice for 2019.



LAST SEASON: 24-58, missed playoffs.

COACH: Lloyd Pierce (first season).

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE: G Trae Younger (27.four ppg, College of Oklahoma), G Kent Bazemore (12.9 ppg), C Alex Len (eight.5 ppg, Phoenix), F Taurean Prince (14.1 ppg), F John Collins (10.5 ppg).

KEY LOSSES: G Dennis Schroder

KEY ADDITIONS: Younger, G Kevin Huerter, F Omari Spellman, G Vince Carter

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Younger, the fifth general draft decide, is an thrilling level guard who’s more likely to make a number of rookie errors. Collins is primed to spice up his scoring after spending the offseason to enhance his leap shot. Prince has emerged as a team chief. Rookies Huerter and Spellman are first-round picks.

OUTLOOK: This season marks the second underneath basic supervisor Travis Schlenk and the first of an entire rebuild. He and Pierce will take a affected person strategy with a younger team which may wrestle to win 20 video games. The Hawks hope they drafted a franchise cornerstone in Younger, however they aren’t urgent him. Younger was in highschool two years in the past and struggled at occasions in the second half of his solely season at Oklahoma. Collins and Prince ought to be higher in their second and third seasons, and Pierce will discover alternatives for Huerter and Spellman in the event that they earn the minutes in follow.


LAST SEASON: 36-46, missed playoffs.

COACH: James Borrego (first season).

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE: G Kemba Walker (22.1 ppg), G Jeremy Lamb (12.9 ppg), G Nicolas Batum (11.6 ppg), F Marvin Williams (9.5 ppg), C Cody Zeller (7.6 ppg).

KEY LOSSES: C Dwight Howard, G Treveon Graham

KEY ADDITIONS: G Tony Parker, C Bismack Biyombo, F Miles Bridges

PLAYERS TO WATCH: The Hornets added 17-year veteran Parker to bolster their second team and to minimize the stretch of tight video games alongside Walker, a two-time All-Star and the team’s greatest participant. Lamb is predicted to switch former No. 2 general decide Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in the beginning lineup, though second-year guard Malik Monk might push him for that job. Zeller regains his beginning job after Howard was traded, a transfer which will show to be addition by subtraction. Borrego is anticipating huge issues from Batum, who ought to have a bounce again season enjoying with shut good friend and fellow Frenchman Parker.

OUTLOOK: The Hornets ought to compete for a playoff spot in the East, the place mediocrity reigns. Their beginning lineup isn’t any higher than it was a yr in the past, however they’re a lot deeper this season and there shouldn’t be as a lot drop off as final season in terms of the second team. Charlotte will play an up-tempo recreation beneath Borrego, a former assistant with the Spurs. In truth, the Hornets have been working with a 12-second shot clock in apply to get used to enjoying at a quicker tempo. Rebounding might be a problem with Howard gone.


LAST SEASON: 44-38, misplaced in Eastern Conference first spherical.

COACH: Erik Spoelstra (11th season).

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE: G Goran Dragic (17.Three ppg), G Tyler Johnson (11.7 ppg), F Josh Richardson (12.9 ppg), F Kelly Olynyk (11.5 ppg), C Hassan Whiteside ( ppg).



PLAYERS TO WATCH: It’s the ultimate season for Dwyane Wade, who continues to be going to be an important piece of the puzzle if Miami goes to have success this season. Whiteside must return to previous type, after a irritating 2017-18 season the place he was dogged by accidents.

OUTLOOK: The Warmth introduced again nearly the similar team, with the exception of some new gamers on two-way offers. It speaks to some issues — how they didn’t have a lot monetary flexibility this summer time with so many gamers underneath long-term contracts, but in addition a perception that if wholesome Miami can compete in an East that not has LeBron James. That being stated, the well being considerations are already evident in how Dion Waiters gained’t be able to return for a number of extra weeks whereas he continues rehabbing his surgically repaired ankle and James Johnson missed the preseason whereas recovering from hernia surgical procedure.


LAST SEASON: 25-57, missed playoffs.

COACH: Steve Clifford (first season, sixth NBA season).

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE: G Evan Fournier (17.eight ppg), G D.J. Augustin (10.2 ppg), F Aaron Gordon (17.6 ppg), F Jonathan Isaac (5.four ppg), C Nik Vucevic (16.5 ppg).

KEY LOSSES: C Bismack Biyombo, G Mario Hezonja

KEY ADDITIONS: C Mohamed Bamba, C Timofey Mozgov

PLAYERS TO WATCH: Gordon, armed with a brand new long-term contract at age 23, is predicted to emerge as a team chief and All-Star in his fifth NBA season. Bamba, a 7-footer and first-round draft decide, and Isaac, who’s listed as 6-10, will give the team a unique defensive capability with their monumental wingspans.

OUTLOOK: Clifford was an assistant coach underneath Stan Van Gundy when the Magic final certified for the playoffs in 2011-12. In six seasons since, underneath 4 totally different head coaches, the Magic have averaged 26 wins and haven’t come near a playoff berth. The roster seems deeper, particularly at the massive positions, however a lot of that depth is determined by the well being of the injury-prone Isaac, Gordon and Vucevic.


LAST SEASON: 43-39, misplaced in Eastern Conference first spherical.

COACH: Scott Brooks (third season, 10th NBA season).

PROJECTED STARTING FIVE: G John Wall (19.four ppg, 9.6 apg), G Bradley Beal (22.6 ppg), F Otto Porter Jr. (14.7 ppg), F Markieff Morris, (11.5 ppg), C Dwight Howard (16.6 ppg, 12.5 rpg, Charlotte).

KEY LOSSES: C Marcin Gortat, F Mike Scott, G Tim Frazier

KEY ADDITIONS: Howard, F Jeff Inexperienced, G Austin Rivers, F Troy Brown.

PLAYERS TO WATCH: As has been the case for some time, the Wizards will go so far as their All-Star backcourt of Wall and Beal take them. Brooks needs extra 3s, particularly from Beal and Porter, who made 44.1 % from past the arc final season. One other key can be Howard; he missed all of coaching camp with a nasty again.

OUTLOOK: They’ve been knocking on the door of a run to the convention finals with out ever fairly taking that subsequent step. They lack self-discipline on protection, for one factor, some extent that Brooks makes time and again, with out making any progress. There appears to be extra depth this time, with gamers comparable to Inexperienced and Rivers providing hope for the second unit and the occasional relaxation for Wall, in specific. One main query goes to be how a lot Howard helps or hurts — on the flooring and in the locker room.