After an action filled All-Star weekend in the Windy City, the NBA playoffs and off-season are on the horizon. Here’s one question that each Eastern Conference team should think about for the rest of the season or in the offseason.
Atlanta (15-41): “Trust the Process?”
The Hawks aren’t taking the step forward that many NBA analysts expected them to take, but that could be expected from such a young team. Similarly to the 76ers a few years ago, time will help the Hawks who look to have the actual next Curry on their team with Trae Young. Atlanta has to have faith in their youth and start to prepare for their upcoming championship window.
Boston (38-16): “Is it Enough?”
The Celtics are a much more complete team with Kemba running the point in place of Kyrie, but something seems off with them as I really don’t see them as a true contender. In a league dominated by stars and “dynamic duos” the Celtics have three 20ppg scorers in Walker, Brown, and Tatum, and a bench full of gamechangers, but is it enough? After their double overtime shootout win over the Clippers, I’m starting to believe that it might actually be enough.
Brooklyn (25-28): “Will Durant be the same?”
The Nets are trying to figure things out in time for the arrival of the league’s best player Kevin Durant next season. The Nets are under preforming due to injuries to Kyrie Irving, but the rest of the roster is continuing to develop, especially Spencer Dinwiddie who was playing at a border-line all-Star level in the absence of Irving. The Nets aren’t a true contender this year but if KD comes back the same player he was, the Nets instantly become title favorites in 2021.
Charlotte (18-36): “Are they on to something?”
The Hornets are not last in the east due to the emergence of three young players, Devonte’ Graham, Miles Bridges, and P.J. Washington. This trio has made the Hornets have some success this season and the league took notice naming all three Hornets to the Rising stars team. That begs the question, are they on to something? With this young core could the Hornets a trade away from becoming a true threat in the East?
Chicago (19-33) “What’s the direction?”
The Bulls have found themselves in a tricky spot after Sacramento forced them to max out Zach LaVine. Outside of Zach, this year’s Bulls are pretty meh, and when Thaddeus Young is your marquee free agent signing that not a great thing. The Bulls really have to find a direction as they are currently in the worst NBA spot, a ceiling of a first-round sweep and a floor of the bottom of the lottery. The front office is a complete mess and the entire league’s focus being on Chicago didn’t help the Bulls at all.
Cleveland (14-40): “Will you win the lottery?”
The Cavs are a group of thugs, I mean slugs, who are truly really bad. As a University of Michigan fan, it pains me to see John Beilein collapse in the NBA, but everyone saw this coming with the roster they had, so why is he being punished? Trading for another center in Drummond has left the NBA scratching their heads. Even LeBron couldn’t save Cleveland this time, one can only hope they win the lottery and whoever they select is an All-Star.
Detroit (19-38): “Can Stefanski win the offseason?”
As I’ve said before, Detroit is stuck in NBA mediocrity, the same spot the Bulls are in. The Pistons are in full tank mode due to trading Drummond and injuries to Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin. Ed Stefanski will have around 40-50$ million in cap space to play with this season and most likely a top 5 draft pick. This is an incredibly important off-season, could the Pistons draft a future all-Star? Could they sign Fred VanVleet or Brandon Ingram? Can Stefanski win the off-season?
Indiana (32-23): “Can Oladipo lead this team?”
The Pacers are one of those teams where it doesn’t matter who’s on their roster, they’re going to be a good team. Brogdon and Sabonis are a sneaky good duo, and now that Oladipo is returning from injury, the Pacers are going to be a force in the East. The question is can Oladipo lead this team to the Conference Finals? The Pacers, like so many teams in the East were stopped by LeBron, now that he’s gone, can they capitalize?
Miami (35-19): “Can they do it?”
The Heat and Pat Riley shoved their chips into the middle and went all-in at the trade deadline. Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder are great additions for the small price of Justice Winslow and James Johnson. Now the Heat have a nice blend of championship experience and youth to go with their unexpected start to the season. The Heat now are left wondering if they have enough to get past Giannis and the LA teams to bring a title to South Beach.
Milwaukee (46-8) “Is Giannis ready?”
The Bucks have the best player on the planet, Giannis Antetokounmpo, who now is the best player in the galaxy as he can shoot three-pointers. In addition to Giannis’ three-point shooting, he’s a year older and so is the team, making them that much better. With no LeBron or Kawhi to stand in their way, this could be the Bucks’ year, is Giannis ready to take the league by the horns?
New York (17-38) “Can they land a marquee free-agent?”
The Knicks are still reeling from their historic failure of an offseason. New York is sneakily creating a stockpile of draft picks and could use them to cash in on a big-name player to pair with a potential marquee free agent signing this summer. AD will not leave so Brandon Ingram is my predicted signing for the Knicks, although I think they should wait for the loaded 2021 class.
Orlando (24-31): “Time to make a change?”
The Magic have one of the most interesting rosters in the league. The Magic were balling this year but unfortunately, Johnathan Isaac and Nikola Vucevic both got injured. The revival of Markelle Fultz has been the work of magic, but even with a fully healthy team the Magic aren’t there yet. Maybe a move for DeRozan, CP3, or Holiday could help? Or should the Magic look to move on from veterans like Fournier, Vucevic, and Ross? The Magic are at the tipping point, do they go all in, or do they fold?
Philadelphia (34-21) “Simmons or Embiid?”
Simmons and Embiid are two of the biggest divas in the NBA. Simmons and Embiid together visibly and analytically don’t work together so the Sixers are going to have to do something this season after an expected loss in the playoffs. Personally, I’d trade Simmons but due to how injury prone Embiid is, that will be a very hard decision to make.
Toronto (40-15) “No Kawhi no problem?”
Toronto isn’t missing Kawhi yet, but they will. VanVleet and Siakam are still progressing and paired with Ibaka, Gasol, and Lowry, the Raptors are still a threat in the East. Similarly, to the Celtics, there’s just something about Toronto where I can’t see them winning the title. Siakam could take over in the playoffs but there’s no way he can carry them the way Kawhi did. I see this Toronto team like those before Kawhi, regular season warriors who fold in the playoffs.
Washington (20-33) “Can you keep Beal?”
The Wizards are being carried by Bradley Beal this year and he’s sick of it. If I’m the Wizards, either trade Beal now or pray that John Wall is the same player when he comes back from yet another injury. Outside of Beal, this team is hot garbage, the questionable Hachimura pick is starting to be questioned, and one wonders how long you can keep Beal. If Washington does nothing, then Beal will probably walk.