My top eight teams in the Eastern Conference entering the 2020-21 season. I’ll do the West later.
1. Milwaukee Bucks: Jru Holiday is going to be a more important acquisition than people think. Giannis Antetokounmpo will leave no room for doubt that, yes, he really is the league’s best talent.
2. Brooklyn Nets: They’re either going to be a complete train wreck or pretty darn awesome. With Kyrie Irving, either possibility exists. I also have some concerns about Kevin Durant’s return from Achilles surgery. Will he be the same?
3. Boston Celtics: It may be their turn to win the conference. I’m telling you, Tristan Thompson will be the energy man these guys need. Will fit perfectly next to Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker.
4. Miami Heat: I know. I’m a jerk for picking them this low. Honestly, no team in the NBA has a better culture. I actually wouldn’t be stunned if it carried them to the Finals again. They’re deep and cohesive.
5. Philadelphia 76ers: Not even Doc Rivers can fix the Joel Embiid-Ben Simmons awkwardness. Really should explore a James Harden trade.
6. Toronto Raptors: This just seems like the season in which they will feel the true impact of Kawhi Leonard leaving in 2019. That and having to play home games in Florida. Lots of challenges. I’ve been wrong before, though.
7. Indiana Pacers: If Victor Oladipo is back to form, they could be a darkhorse come playoff time. But if things start slowly, Oladipo will be dealt. Expect the Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers to keep a close eye on Oladipo and Indiana.
8. Washington Wizards: The trade for Russell Westbrook results in immediate buzz and new hope. This supposedly is where he wanted to be. If Westbrook’s fit with Bradley Beal goes well, the Wizards could climb.
9. Atlanta Hawks: Adding veteran Bogdan Bogdanavic, Rajon Rondo and a few other vets to Trae Young, John Collins and the rest could lift them to the sixth seed. Honest.
10. Charlotte Hornets: LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward will sell a few extra tickets (once tickets can be sold again), and the Hornets overall had a nice offseason. But they will still need one more real star.
11. New York Knicks: Get ready, New York. Thibodeau is going to make these guys relevant, and fast. And Obi Toppin will be Rookie of the Year. Fun basketball this season, playoffs next. Book it.
12. Orlando Magic: Well, at least they didn’t get worse. But not so sure they got better, either.
Totally out of it:
Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons.