Dwight Howard is officially a Wizard, so let's handicap the East
Handicapping the East
How does Dwight Howard’s arrival in Washington change the complexion of the Eastern Conference?
Let’s handicap the East now that D12 is officially a Wizard.
1. Boston Celtics
Record Last Year: 55-27, 2nd in East
Key Additions: Robert Williams (draft)
Key Departures: None (Marcus Smart, Greg Monroe currently Free Agents)
The Celtics were one win away from reaching The Finals a year ago – and that was without All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. Young studs Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have another year of experience, and Boston looks very much like the team to beat in the conference.
2. Philadelphia 76ers
Record Last Year: 52-30, 3rd in East
Key Additions: Wilson Chandler (trade), Nemanja Bjelica (Free Agency)
Key Departures: Ersan Ilyasova (Bucks), Marco Belinelli (Spurs)
The process finally paid off after the All-Star break last season, when Philly went 22-5 and advanced to the Semi-Finals in the playoffs. Embiid and Simmons are matchup nightmares and the team also resigned a valuable piece in J.J. Redick. If Markelle Fultz lives up to his #1 draft status, the 76ers could be the favorite to reach the Finals.
3. Washington Wizards
Record Last Year: 43-39, 8th in East
Key Additions: Dwight Howard (Free Agency), Jeff Green (Free Agency), Austin Rivers (trade)
Key Departures: Marcin Gortat (Clippers), Mike Scott (Clippers)
The Wizards addressed their two biggest needs this summer: (1) an above-the-rim athletic big man, and (2) steady bench production. Factor in it’s unlikely John Wall will miss half the season and it’s fair to argue that this is the most talented roster during Wall and Beal’s tenure in the NBA.
4. Toronto Raptors
Record Last Year: 59-29, 1st in East
Key Additions: None
Key Departures: Head Coach Dwane Casey (Pistons)
Too far for the top team in the East to drop? Maybe, but the Raptors have done nothing to improve the roster. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are a year older. How the players will respond to promoted assistant coach Nick Nurse will be the key to their position in the East.
5. Milwaukee Bucks
Record Last Year: 44-38, 7th in East
Key Additions: Head Coach Mike Budenholzer, Donte DiVincenzo (draft), Ersan Ilyasova (Free Agency)
Key Departures: Jabari Parker (Bulls)
Giannis Antetokounmpo is arguably the best player in conference. Mike Budenholzer is a big upgrade over Jason Kid. The team improved their shooting by adding DiVincenzo and Ilyasova, but the future of Jabari Parker with the team looms very large.
6. Indiana Pacers
Record Last Year: 48-34, 5th in East
Key Additions: Tyreke Evans (Free Agency), Doug McDermott (Free Agency), Aaron Holiday (draft)
Key Departures: Lance Stephenson (Lakers)
Victor Oladipo’s outstanding season propelled the surprise Pacers to 5th in the East, where they pushed LeBron and the Cavs in the playoffs. Indiana won’t sneak up on anyone this year. A lot hinges on the health of Tyreke Evans, who is great when on the floor but has played more than 70 games twice in his nine year career.
7. Detroit Pistons
Record Last Year: 39-43, 9th in East
Key Additions: Head Coach Dwane Casey, Glenn Robinson III (Free Agency)
Key Departures: None
Detroit added the Coach of the Year in the offseason, and he once again gets a pair of dynamic players to work with in Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond. Griffin has chosen to take his game to the perimeter more in recent seasons – will it be what Casey asks of him next season? And more importantly, will it be effective?
8. Miami Heat
Record Last Year: 44-38, 6th in East
Key Additions: None
Key Departures: None (Dwyane Wade currently a Free Agent)
The Heat are steady if not spectacular, and you can credit that to the mindset of President Pat Riley and head coach Eric Spoelstra. Miami can very much be in the mix if (and it’s a BIG if) Hassan Whiteside buys in for a full season in South Beach.
9. Charlotte Hornets
Record Last Year: 36-46, 10th in East
Key Additions: Tony Parker (Free Agency), Bismack Biyombo (trade), Miles Bridges (draft)
Key Departures: Michael-Carter Williams (Rockets)
Charlotte essentially downgraded from Dwight Howard to Bismack Biyombo and brought in Parker on the downside of his career. Bridges could provide a nice boost of youth and athleticism on the wing. But, when it comes down to it the team is relying on Kemba Walker to carry them to the playoffs with a career year.
10. Chicago Bulls
Record Last Year: 27-55 (13th in East)
Key Additions: Jabari Parker (free agency), Wendell Carter (draft), Chandler Hutchison (draft)
Key Departures: None
After the top 9 teams, there is a LOT of “meh” left in the East. I’m choosing the Bulls over a LeBron-less Cavs team and the Knicks because of their young star depth. Wendell Carter will have a major impact as a rookie and pairs perfectly with Lauri Markkanen. Add in Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Bobby Portis and Chicago has hope again.