1. Boston Celtics – With the addition of Al Horford in free agency, the Celtics finally have the big man they’ve been in need of. Isaiah Thomas is coming off his first All-Star appearance, and with Avery Bradley being one of the league’s top defenders, Boston has one of the best back courts in the NBA.
Brad Stevens is one of the top candidates for Coach of the Year, and should have no problem leading a very talented Boston squad back to the playoffs with home court advantage. The Celtics will be one of few teams in the East with a chance of knocking Cleveland out of the playoffs.
2. New York Knicks – The Knicks made a major move in acquiring former NBA MVP Derrick Rose and former NBA Defensive Player of the Year Joakim Noah from the Bulls. After beating his recent court case, Derrick Rose looks to return to All-Star form.
The Knicks could potentially be one of the best teams in the NBA, and if they can stay relatively healthy, they could give the Cavaliers a real fight in the Eastern Conference.
3. Brooklyn Nets – The Nets roster is in dire need of help. Not owning their own first round pick really hurt them in getting any quality young talent, though they brought in Jeremy Lin, who looks to fill in as the starting point guard and provide them with a reliable second go to scorer behind Brook Lopez.
Other than that, the Nets look to have a down season. They didn’t make a big splash in free agency and with a roster that lacks talent, it’s tough to see them winning 20+ games.
4. Toronto Raptors – Last years darling of the NBA had the best season their franchise has ever seen. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are set to once again be one of the top scoring back courts in the NBA, with Lowry being the perimeter threat and DeRozan having one of the best mid-range games in the league along with getting to the rack.
The Raptors have solid role players and an up-and-coming prospect in Norman Powell, who has shown he’s ready to be a key part in Toronto’s future. If Valanciunas can stay healthy, Toronto should be alright down low, even with the loss of key reserve big man Bismack Biyombo (Magic).
5. Philadelphia 76ers – The Sixers can’t seem to catch break after things were starting to finally look up. The number one overall pick, Ben Simmons, broke his toe during practice and looks to be out for the foreseeable future.
On a positive note, Joel Embiid has returned to the basketball court after three years and looks to be pushing his minutes restriction up nightly. The Sixers look to finally have a competent NBA roster filled with lots of young talent; unfortunately, they’ll still be looking at a high lottery pick in next year’s NBA draft.