A quick and early ranking of the 15 teams in the Eastern Conference. Click here for West.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers: Even without Kyrie Irving, Cavs deeper than last season. Mostly, LeBron James still can easily keep them in the driver’s seat.
2. Washington Wizards: With an engine like John Wall, and some strong talent around him (Bradley Beal, Otto Porter), the Wizards are clearly a candidate to finish in the top two.
3. Boston Celtics: With the addition of Irving and Gordon Hayward, the Celtics are younger and considerably more exciting. They could get back to East finals, but a slow start wouldn’t be surprising.
4. Milwaukee Bucks: This ultra-athletic, up-and-coming group is the real deal, with Giannis Antetokounmpo leading the exciting rise. Could easily climb as high as No. 2.
5. Toronto Raptors: All the important pieces are back, including Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, and that’s a good thing. But it may be the same as it ever was.
6. Miami Heat: Looked good after the All-Star break. Is this the year Dion Waiters becomes an All-Star?
7. Charlotte Hornets: Incoming center Dwight Howard insists he’s been reborn. Even if not, Hornets still have enough to see postseason.
8. Detroit Pistons: New building, new hope. So anything less than a playoff spot could lead to the end of the Andre Drummond era.
9. Philadelphia 76ers: Lots of youth and even more questions here, but if Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons can get through the season healthy, hey, you never know.
10. Orlando Magic: No stars, but coach Frank Vogel always makes sure Magic play hard and smart.
11. Indiana Pacers: The Paul George run is over. So likely are the Pacers’ runs to the playoffs.
12. Chicago Bulls: It’s hard to envision Dwyane Wade making it through the season (or even preseason) before a buyout. Rebuild awaits.
13. Brooklyn Nets: Four new starters with D’Angelo Russell as the new go-to guy? Well, things have been worse.
14. New York Knicks: The Carmelo Anthony situation could haunt this poor team all season. Kristaps Porzingis offers reason to watch, anyway.
15. Atlanta Hawks: Quick, name two players other than Dennis Schroeder. Playing for the No. 1 draft pick in 2018.