Another wild offseason, one that is still not done, has seen more franchise-changing moves and some of the top-tier superstars in this league moving conferences again. Around this time every off-season, bold predictions are spewed on every talk show in the country and with the addition of Kawhi Leonard to an Eastern Conference that has lost its King to the West, it’s only about to get crazier.
The Eastern Conference is very top heavy, with the top 4 teams being a steady consensus across many predictions. Even with this, the season ahead can become a stepping stone for many teams in the East that are looking to rebuild or find some consistency. Let’s take a crack at what the playoff seeding will look like for 2019.
1. Boston Celtics (60-22)
This Celtics team had one of the most impressive seasons we’ve seen in recent years with the circumstances this team was given. It lost it’s best two players in Kyrie Irving (right before playoffs) and Gordon Hayward (first game of the season) and still managed to secure the second seed and take Lebron James to Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals. This season, with a fully healthy squad, I predict this team will reach even higher in the East and further in the playoffs to the NBA Finals.
2. Philadelphia 76ers (56-26)
“The Process” finally started to show rewards to Philly fans last season. The 76ers had the most improved record in the NBA, jumping from 28 wins to 52 and making the playoffs for the first time since 2012. This year, I predict they improve by 4 wins if Ben Simmons can become a more productive jump-shooter and former first overall pick Markelle Fultz can manage to stay healthy.
3. Toronto Raptors (52-30)
Toronto made the biggest splash of the off-season in the Eastern Conference with the acquisition of Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs. He’s a nice addition to an Eastern Conference that has lost many of its former all-stars to the West in the past few years. Toronto has a new head coach in Nick Nurse who was a part of previous head coach Dwayne Casey’s system so don’t expect too much to differ in Toronto’s philosophy. With Kawhi, I expect a better team even though the record will not indicate that.
4. Washington Wizards (51-31)
The Wizards had one of the more head-scratching seasons in 2017 with questions coming on and off the court. The most detrimental loss came when John Wall was forced to sit for two months due to a knee injury and Washington dropped from the fourth seed to the sixth seed. I expect that the Wizards will be back to what we’ve seen the seasons before last with a healthy Wall and the addition of Dwight Howard who replaces Gortat.
5. Indiana Pacers (49-33)
Victor Oladipo was the spark that lit the fire in Indiana this past season as he won the most improved player for 2018. Indiana wasn’t expected to make the playoffs with the loss of Paul George during the past off-season but proved the doubters wrong and impressed with a 5th seed in the 2018 playoffs. I’m expecting more of the same from Indiana this season. Even with the additions of Doug McDermott and Tyreke Evans, I only see them improving by 1 game.
6.Milwaukee Bucks (46-36)
Last season saw Giannis Antetokounmpo develop into a budding superstar in this league. The Bucks fired head coach Jason Kidd during the season but look to steady the ship this season. I expect Giannis to be a consistent 28 points per game scorer, but I still see this Milwaukee still struggle to put it all together to really turn heads in the NBA.
7. Miami Heat (45-37)
Miami remains a big question mark for this upcoming season. Does Hassan Whiteside decide to fully buy into this organization? Does Justice Winslow finally start to show consistent promise? Does the front office resign franchise legend Dwayne Wade, or let him sign in China? With all that said, I believe Goran Dragic will be the one solid foundation they have and will get them into the playoffs.
8. Chicago Bulls (42-40)
I believe Chicago will be the most improved team in NBA in 2019. The Bulls were a lottery team this past season as the team never got healthy all season as they tried to bring in a new era of Bulls basketball. Chicago traded their franchise player in Jimmy Butler last NBA Draft to the Minnesota Timberwolves and got a return of injured, yet promising young players in Kris Dunn and Zach Lavine. They also drafted Lauri Markennen who made the All-Rookie first team this past season. While this team definitely has some injury concerns, once they are all on the court, you can see why Chicago is so high on these players. They added oft-injured, and hometown kid, Jabari Parker this summer in hopes that he can help this team rebound after their worst season in over a decade.