Health is the only thing that can hold LeBron James’ crew back. If Kevin Love can thrive in his role alongside James and Kyrie Irving, this is a true threat to the West’s best.
The loss of DeMarre Carroll (Raptors) will hurt. He was the heart of the Hawks’ defense. The team is too well-oiled to struggle mightily unless Al Horford or Paul Millsap goes down, but they’re not winning 60 again.
This team is basically the same, for better or worse. It will be interesting how they respond under new coach Fred Hoiberg. The X-factor, as always, is Derrick Rose’s ability to make it onto the court intact.
Last year’s surprise is a future East power after the Greg Monroe signing. A young, talented starting lineup should be more than good enough to make noise. And, they’ll do it in sweet new uniforms.
A mix of aging stars (Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Amar’e Stoudemire), fringe-prime contributors (Goran Dragic) and intriguing young talent (Hassan Whiteside, Justise Winslow) make for a borderline East threat.
Carroll will fill some of the leaks in this defense, and newly-svelte All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry is playing great in preseason. The Raptors have a high ceiling, but last season’s collapse is troubling.
The Wizards couldn’t replace Paul Pierce’s playoff grit, but maybe some of it rubbed off on guards John Wall and Bradley Beal. It better have, because Washington did less to improve than most in the East.
With an offseason trade, David Lee went from championship benchwarmer to important contributor for a young Boston squad. They’ve got so many talented young players, but no true stars. Someone needs to make the leap.
They could be this season’s version of the Bucks and make the playoffs, or continue languish with a young core. Watch out for Victor Oladipo to become a household name sooner rather than later.
Guard Reggie Jackson must prove he was worth Detroit’s investment in him and help Andre Drummond get this team back to the postseason. If Stanley Johnson emerges as a Rookie of the Year candidate, they might get there.
Paul George is the last major holdover from when the Pacers battled LeBron’s Heat in the playoffs. He’s left with some decent supporting players (Monta Ellis and George Hill), but Indiana is short on, well, height.
Every move the Knicks made over the summer improved the team. They now have players capable of defending NBA-level talent (Brook Lopez and Arron Afflalo) and a promising prospect (Kristaps Porzingis). Carmelo Anthony’s club is on the rise.
Charlotte made some subtle moves to improve over the summer, but losing Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to injury hurts. Al Jefferson and Kemba Walker must do the heavy lifting, as usual.
Hey, this was par for the course when the team was in New Jersey. Sadly, all a bad season like this would do is ensure more quality young talent for the Celtics, who own Brooklyn’s first-rounder.
The Sixers finally will live down to their potential as the worst team in the NBA. Watching this team is like watching a Triple-A baseball game with a couple good prospects (Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel).