With just more than a month until training camp begins, here’s a look at who could be the beast (and the least) of the Eastern Conference:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
With everyone returning, LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving again only need to stay healthy when it means the most.
2. Chicago Bulls
Veteran team that defends and plays well together with a true star in Derrick Rose. New coach Fred Hoiberg will love this gig.
3. Atlanta Hawks
Losing DeMarre Carroll in free agency stings, but Coach Mike Budenholzer and the Hawks have always been about the system. And it works.
4. Miami Heat
Likely a last gasp at good things for this aging group, but Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and others understand how to play well at winning time.
5. Washington Wizards
John Wall and Bradley Beal form perhaps the East’s best backcourt, and overall depth and experience (and some consistency) could result in a top-two finish.
6. Toronto Raptors
Too talented to fall too far below this with the likes of Kyle Lowry and DeMarr DeRozan — but will they ever be anything more than first-round fodder?
7. Boston Celtics
Few coaches have their players’ attention like Brad Stevens, as the Celtics treat each game like they’re a Cinderella squad in March Madness.
8. Indiana Pacers
The return of a completely healthy Paul George and the introduction of a faster tempo will make the Pacers one of the more enjoyable teams to watch — and a potential sleeper.
9. Milwaukee Bucks
Youth, excitement, a coach in Jason Kidd who has them believing. They’re again in the playoff hunt, period.
10. Brooklyn Nets
Not relying on departed Deron Williams is probably a good thing, but depth could be an issue. If not, the Nets may go places.
11. Charlotte Hornets
The trade for Nicolas Batum offers an immediate upgrade — but like so many on the brink of the playoffs, consistency is needed.
12. New York Knicks
If Carmelo Anthony stays healthy, they will no longer be a laughingstock. Arron Afflalo and Robin Lopez were underrated additions.
13. Detroit Pistons
Still a fairly young bunch that’s lacking an identity. Coach Stan Van Gundy remains their greatest hope.
14. Orlando Magic
New coach Scott Skiles will have them playing with more intensity and pulling off a few surprises. Beyond that, it’ll be more of the same.
15. Philadelphia 76ers
At some point, this once-proud franchise will want to win again. Now appears far from that time.