By Hocine LOUKKAF on 9/24/2021
After their second title in franchise history, the Bucks will try to repeat in a pretty stacked Eastern Conference. Brooklyn and Miami could be the main competitors for Conference division but don’t underrate Atlanta, Philadelphia or New York.
#1 Milwaukee Bucks
While Giannis is the franchise player, the Bucks have found an elite PG in Jrue Holiday which helped the team get its first ring for his first season in Wisconsin. The starting five remains the same with Middleton, Lopez and DiVincenzo. The bench sees some changes as Forbes and Teague are replaced by Grayson Alen, George Hill and Rodney Hood while PJ Tucker’s role will be handled by the younger Ojeleye. Portis brings much needed depth inside while 2nd-year Diakite and rookie Mamukelashvili (a versatile shooting big) will try their best to get some minutes.
#2 Brooklyn Nets
Outside of a nucleus of six players (Irving, Harden, Durant, Claxton, Griffin, Harris), the Nets management has changed all the roster to reach the franchise’s expectations. Brooklyn was not far from getting to the Finals but Irving’s injury was the last hit despite an heroic Durant in the game seven. Staying healthy is the key as the team is not the same if one of its stars is missing. Mills, Jevon Carter have been recruited in case get injured. Rookies Sharpe and above all Thomas have the talent to help the team rightaway. Getting the first spot and thus home advantage will be important if Brooklyn faces once again the Bucks in the Conference Finals.
#3 Atlanta Hawks
Over the last two years, the Hawks management has drastically improved its roster, surrounding Young and Collins with solid vets like Capela, Gallinari and Bogdanovic but also using the draft to sign Hunter, Reddish or Okongwu. Last year’s Eastern Conference finalist is more ambitious than ever keeping the same solid nucleus while making subtle changes, adding Dieng, Luwawu-Cabarrot and Delon Wright. Above all, the draft allow ATL to bring two solid talents, former Georgia HS star Sharife Cooper who ciould learn behind Trae and above all former top 10 projected prospect Jalen Johnson, a do-it-all forward who could become an elite two-way player on the wing.
#4 Boston Celtics
After a tasteless season, the Celtics and new GM Stevens got back to the old recipes as they brought back Horford and Kanter, traded for Josh Richardson and signed at a cheap price Schröder to make up for the departures of Walker and Fournier. These players should help Tatum, Brown and Smart get a top four seed in the loaded Eastern Conference. The roster is full of interesting young blood with Williams, Pritchard, Nesmith, Langford.
#5 Miami Heat
After reaching the Finals two years ago, Miami may have failed to improve its roster as much as its opponents in the Eastern Conference during the previous offseason. This offseason, they didn’t sign a major superstar but gambled on the PG spot, replacing longtime contributor Goran Dragic by more impactful Kyle Lowry. They also added experience and much needed size at both forward positions, signing Markieff Morris and PJ Tucker. Rookie Yurtseven could also bring some minutes at the C position and stretch the floor behind Adebayo after a nice summer.
#6 Philadelphia Sixers
The Sixers’s offseason depends on one player, Ben Simmons. The Australian oversized PG has expressed that he doesn’t want to be a sixer anymore but Philly is asking for a helluva package to let him leave. Simmons’ case is strange as he’s one of the elite talents in the NBA but his inability to shoot and even score in the playoffs (19pts in his last three playoff games…combined) make him a dead weight at $30+m by year until 2025. The rest of the roster is solid with Embiid and Harris leading the way while Green, Maxey, Curry, Thybulle or newly signed Drummond make the Sixers roster one of the most complete in the Eastern Conference.
#7 New York Knicks
With their first positive record for eight years, the Knicks couldn’t be happier to have signed Thibodeau. As usual, he brought his discipline and toughness which allow the team to reach the playoffs. This offseason has been even more successful as the management has improved two of its weakest positions a hungry backcourt. At PG, local HS legend Kemba Walker will try to help the Knicks go far in the playoffs despite being bothered by injuries these last two years. He will be helped by Evan Fournier, another hungry vet who also missed a bunch of games last year and will be willing to prove he’s worth a starting spot for a playoff contender.
#8 Chicago Bulls
With four negative seasons in a row, the Bulls management decided to pay its way to the playoffs and keep Lavine in the long term. The lack of experience and of a true PG (White has never been it) may be solved with the freshly acquired Demar Derozan, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso. Bradley could bring much needed defense behind Vucevic while high-flying Derrick Jones will add one more athlete on the wing behind Patrick Williams. Chicago can’t wait no more and if this offseason doesn’t translate in wins, this may lead to Lavine’s departure.
#9 Charlotte Hornets
Surfing on the Lamelo’s wave, the Hornets have creating more buzz last season than they did during the previous twenty years. With Hayward, Rozier, Washington and Bridges, Charlotte has a solid group of exciting players who brings as much skills as athleticism. The management had to make some changes and the first was to find a replacement for longtime starter Zeller. Plumlee seems as solid as the Hoosier as experienced and rugged center. Oubre’s spectacular play fits perfectly the roster while Ish Smith adds depth in the backcourt. The draft was also the opportunity to get good talent for a cheap price as the Hornets used their picks to select Uconn scorer Bouknight before selecting high-upside big men kai Jones and JT Thor.
#10 Indiana Pacers
With a roster made of young vets at every position (Brogdon, Levert, Warren, Sabonis, Turner) and two potential future starters picked through the draft (Duarte and Jackson), the Pacers may have what it takes to be a playoff contender and more. Yet, with Levert and Warren out for the start of the season, Indiana will need to start well to potentially get a playoff berth or avoid the Play-in.
Click below for our latest mock draft.