Welcome to Part 2 of our NBA preview where we cover the Eastern Conference, home to your 2016 NBA World Champion Cleveland Cavaliers. You can find Part 1 here which previews the Western Conference, home to the first team to ever blow a 3-1 series lead in an NBA Finals.
Below I rank each team from worst to first and add some predictions for the season. I've incorporated a totally scientific Swish scale that grades each team's excitement level based on J.R. Smith emoji's. And on to the East.
15. The Nets should be pitiful this year and they don't have a first round draft pick until 2019. At least Brooklyn's hipsters can act too cool to care (even though they're dying inside).
14. The Magic traded Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, and the just drafted Domantas "Son of Arvydas" Sabonis to the Thunder in the offseason for Serge Ibaka. A surprising move for a team trying to rebuild. This year brings in former Pacers coach Frank Vogel and the hopeful development of youngsters Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton, and Mario Hezonja.
13. The 76ers have a new process. Despite an unfortunate break with number one overall pick Ben Simmons missing at least 2 more months, Philly should see some improvement this year with 2014 number 3 pick Joel Embiid destined to turn some heads and European sensation Dario Saric finally playing in the states.
12. The Atlanta Hawks lost their best player to free agency in Al Horford. Essentially replacing him with Dwight Howard who doesn't really have a reputation for winning, won't be enough for Atlanta to get back into the playoffs.
11. The Bulls brought in native son Dwyane Wade to help replace native son Derrick Rose whom they traded to the Knicks. They also signed Rajon Rondo. With Wade, Rondo, and Jimmy Butler all probable starters, the Bulls may suffer from some chemistry issues and will be lucky to make the playoffs this year.
10. The Wizards brought in new coach Scott Brooks after missing the playoffs this past year. With some tension between star point guard John Wall and his talented but injury prone backcourt mate, Bradley Beal, the Wizards still seem a piece away from the postseason.
9. Two words: Point Giannis. Jason Kidd has said he will at times play 6'11 "Greek Freak" Giannis Antetokounmpo at point guard. This 21 year old can flat out ball and could make a giant leap skyward this year. He almost single-handedly makes the Bucks a 4 J.R. Swishes team. The Bucks may very well struggle this year without Khris Middleton but this team will get folks excited for the next few years. Oh and Delly.
8. The New York Knicks are back, baby! Well, not exactly. They did add exciting pieces in former MVP Derrick Rose, Most Annoying Player Joakim Noah, Courtney Mills, and Brandon Jennings but they'll need to stay healthy if they want to make the playoffs. Carmelo is entering his 14th year and time is running out for him with only a matter of years before New York becomes Kristaps' town.
7. For the first time since 2003, the Miami Heat will not have Dwyane Wade on the roster. It had to have been a tough call to not pay perhaps the greatest player in franchise history but Pat Riley doesn't hesitate in making ruthless choices. With not letting Chris Bosh play due to blood clot complications, the Heatles are no more. The Heat may miss the playoffs this year but they've succeeded for a long time under coach Erik Spoelstra so they're getting the benefit of the doubt.
6. Charlotte is going to be boring but surprisingly effective. Kemba Walker hasn't quite reached elite status yet but he's as close to it as you can get and could make a jump this year. Coach Steve Clifford does a good job with his personnel and it's always nice to bring Frank the Tank off your bench.
5. Larry Bird dropped the mic earlier this year when he declined to renew the contract of respected and successful head coach, Frank Vogel. Bird believes coaches are only good for 3 years. We'll see what Nate McMillan can do with some upgrades at point guard and forward in Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young respectively.
4. The Detroit Pistons are headed in the right direction thanks in large part to coach and president Stan Van Gundy, a man whose disdain for ties and formal wear knows no peer. No one really stands out on the team with the possible exception of Andre Drummond but the pieces are fitting together well, especially forward Tobias Harris who was picked up via trade from Orlando last year.
3. The Celtics are probably another superstar away from truly contending but they're on the right track after picking up Al Horford in free agency. Brad Stevens has quickly established himself as one of the best coaches in the league and Boston can scare a lot of teams. It will be interesting to see how number 3 overall draft pick Jaylen Brown is utilized in his rookie year.
2. Toronto will be in 2nd place again this year. There's just still a significant drop off from Cleveland and every other team in the East. The name of that drop off is LeBron James. Toronto fans may point to the loss of starting center Jonas Valanciunas in the playoffs last year but Toronto should be pretty pleased if they find themselves in the Conference Finals again this year in a stronger East.
1. It's the Cavs and everybody else in the East. They didn't make any major changes to the roster besides bringing in former Duke prodigy Mike Dunleavy Jr. who should really help all around off the bench. He can shoot and plays hard and smart. The Cavs will still be looking to make changes to improve this team if the right deal falls their way. It's very unlikely that LeBron James doesn't see his 7th straight trip to the Finals which is a pretty amazing feat in this day and age.
Coach of the Year: Erik Spoelstra
Rookie of the Year: Joel Embiid
MVP: Russell Westbrook
Finals: Cleveland over Golden State in 7 - Super teams don't always win in the first year and Golden State can't stop LeBron or Kyrie. If Cavs get Ricky Rubio, it's a sweep.