The summer of NBA free agency drama is mostly behind us, and the landscape of the 2018 season is starting to unfold. Lebron James who has made EIGHT straight NBA Finals appearances in the Eastern Conference has switched over to the West with the Lakers, which means the East is open for the taking. In my mind, there's really only three teams that have a shot of facing the Warriors (most likely) in the Finals next season.
The Boston Celtics have the most potential to be the new kings of the East, with plenty of returning young talent and superstars like Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. While Heyward only played about five minutes in a Boston uniform before a gruesome injury, and Kyrie missed some time as well, the Celtics are returning at full strength. After only missing the NBA Finals by one game the Celtics starting lineup is stacked along with great bench players like: Terry Rozier, Aaron Baynes, and Marcus Smart.
Starting Lineup: Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Jason Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Al Horford.
The Toronto Raptors will have quite a different look this season after the biggest trade of the summer sent their franchise player Demar DeRozan and a draft pick to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. This trade gives Toronto a great shooter in Green and when healthy, one of the top three players in the game Kawhi Leonard. Information that was released over the summer claimed that Kawhi only had the desire to play in LA wearing a Lakers uniform, but the Spurs traded Kawhi to the Eastern Conference so they won't play against him multiple times a year. The Raptors captured the #1 seed last season with Lebron and the Celtics competing even though the Celtics weren't at full strength. It would be a long shot that Toronto comes into the NBA finals this year but with the new addition of Kawhi, they have the superstar they need.
Starting Lineup: Kyle Lowry, Delon Wright, OG Anunoby, Kawhi Leonard, Jonas Valanciunas
Philly really made a statement last season after making the playoffs and putting up a tough series before losing to the Boston Celtics. But if the Sixers can't beat the Celtics when they have some key players injured, how are they going to defeat Boston when they're all coming into the season healthy? Young stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are proof that the future is bright in Philly, but the team really needs one more big contributor to get over the hump and contend with the greats of the league. They attempted to find that piece in the offseason in Lebron James but they missed out after meeting with his management team. The Sixers will have a better opportunity to come out victorious than Toronto, but I believe Boston will take the crown. Philly still will put up a great season and their young talent will only improve.
Starting Lineup: Ben Simmons, JJ Reddick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Joel Embiid.