Splash’s Eastern Conference Prediction: Seeds 1-8
The NBA season is right around the corner. With that in mind, it is time to unveil my questionably bad predictions for the 2019-2020 season. Many of these predictions will be wrong, but if they are wrong, you can feel free to laugh in my face or send me mean tweets on Twitter. Thank you.
#1 | Philadelphia 76ers
The 76ers have moved into a win-now mode with their acquisition of Al Horford in the off-season. While the Horford contract could turn into an albatross in the coming seasons, he should still be incredibly effective this season. Alongside frontcourt partners and Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris, the Sixers have a three-way threat in the frontcourt. In the backcourt, Josh Richardson replaces Jimmy Butler in an attempt to quell the egos on the roster. Richardson is joined by Ben Simmons as the point card. As a starting five, the 76ers should be able to compete with any team in the NBA. While their bench lacks major talent, the starting five should win enough games to be first in the East.
#2 | Milwaukee Bucks
With reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks should be considered favorites to make the NBA Finals this season. While the Sixers might be more inclined for a more dominant regular season, the Bucks were able to win the No. 1 seed last season, but they fell in the playoffs. With one 60-win season under their belts, Milwaukee could put on the brakes in the regular season to prepare for the playoffs. Besides Antetokounmpo, the Bucks are outfitted with talents such as Eric Bledsoe, Brook Lopez, and All-Star Khris Middleton. The Bucks are a deeper team than the 76ers, which could play a role in a potential playoff series.
#3 | Boston Celtics
The Celtics swapped Kyrie Irving for Kemba Walker in the off-season, a move that could prove to be positive if Walker can gel with the rest of the Celtics. The Celtics also feature young players in Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, two players who could make the jump to being All-Stars this season. Gordon Hayward remains on the roster, but he might not play a pivotal role in this season. The loss of Al Horford stings, but the Celtics were able to bring in Enes Kanter to provide scoring and rebounding. The bench is bolstered by Marcus Smart and a host of players with solid upside, including Semi Ojeleye and Romeo Langford.
#4 | Orlando Magic
The Magic have a lot of solid players. Although the best two players on their team are borderline All-Stars players in Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic, they have an array of under-the-radar talents including recent draft picks in Jonathan Isaac, Markelle Fultz, and Mohamed Bamba. If any of these players break out as a third option on the Magic, they should be in contention to win the Southeast division and be a threat for hosting in the first round of the playoffs. Holdovers D.J. Augustin and Evan Fournier aren’t high upside players at the guard positions, but both know their roles within the Magic offensively and defensively. The Magic should surprise some as they should improve on a seventh-place finish in the East last season.
#5 | Indiana Pacers
The Pacers will be without the services of Victor Oladipo for the first couple of months of the season. In Oladipo’s absence, the likes of T.J. Warren and Myles Turner must step up to ensure that the Pacers do not slip out of a playoff position. New acquisition Malcolm Brogdon should solidify the backcourt while Oladipo is gone, but the Pacers will have a tough road ahead. Once Oladipo returns, the Pacers should be one of the best teams in the East, assuming that Oladipo returns to his All-Star form. If Oladipo does not return to his All-Star form, the Pacers could slip out of the playoffs.
#6 | Toronto Raptors
The reigning NBA champions have a tough road ahead after losing Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard in free agency. To replace Leonard, the Raptors will need Pascal Siakam to continue to improve as a first option. Alongside Siakam, the Raptors bring back Marc Gasol, Norman Powell, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and Fred VanVleet. In free agency, the Raptors added Rondae Hollis-Jefferson from the Nets, a solid wing. The Raptors are good enough to make the playoffs, but Pascal Siakam holds the key to get another 50 wins season for Toronto. Nick Nurse appears to be a good coach, but this season will be the true test to see if he is truly a good coach or if he was just able to ride the coattails of Kawhi Leonard last season.
#7 | Brooklyn Nets
The Nets will be without the services of Kevin Durant this season as he is recovering from an Achilles injury that he suffered in the NBA Finals. In the absence of Durant, Kyrie Irving will take the mantle as the best player in Brooklyn. Alongside Irving, the Nets have Caris Levert, Spencer Dinwiddie, Jarrett Allen, and DeAndre Jordan to carry the load. While I am not a fan of Kyrie Irving as a No. 1 option, Brooklyn should be a playoff team regardless of if Irving is an effective leader of the team. The Nets should have a very strong bench, and they have one of the more underrated coaches in the NBA in Kenny Atkinson.
#8 | Miami Heat
Jimmy Butler joins a Miami team that was barely out of the playoffs last season. Alongside Butler, the Heat feature Justice Winslow, Goran Dragic, and Bam Adebayo. If Butler has a second All-Star play alongside him, the Heat should be able to make the playoffs. The Heat have a high upside if Butler can return to his All-NBA form and another teammate such as Goran Dragic returns to an All-Star form. However, if Jimmy Butler and the Heat do not mesh well, there could be fireworks in Miami. Erik Spoelstra once again leads the charge, and he should prevent a terrible season from the Heat.