Eastern Conference Outlook
Playoff Teams: Cavs, Hawks, Bulls, Raptors, Wizards, Bucks, Heat, Celtics
Duo(s) I’m watching: I actually have two duos that I will watch closely in the Eastern Conference. The first duo is LeBron James and Kevin Love. I will be interested to see how they work together with Kyrie out of the lineup. Coach Blatt and LeBron both said they will try to feature Love more in the offense. Will Love get more touches by the basket or will it be more pick & roll/pop with LeBron and Love? Love was not terrible last season but it certainly doesn’t compare to his last season in Minnesota. The Cavaliers were figuring it out when Love got hurt and now is their chance to make Love even more comfortable in the system. LeBron is the most important person by far but the Cavs can’t win a title without Irving and especially Love.
The second duo is Goran Dragic and Chris Bosh. When the Heat acquired Dragic last season he never got a chance to play with Bosh. The Heat missed the playoffs but Bosh is back and healthy. A pick & pop with Dragic and Bosh will be so effective this season. These are two of the best left handed players in the league and they will be hard to stop. The Heat have the pieces to be a very good team but they need everyone to be healthy.
Bounce back player(s): Carmelo Anthony was limited to only 40 games last season and the Knicks only won 17 games. It was the first time he failed to play in at least 66 games in his career. If the Knicks want to compete for that 8th spot they will need Carmelo at his best. Although they didn’t get any big name free agents they still managed to put together a solid team. Melo has to trust his teammates if he wants to see any success this season. This could be the season where he finally averages over 4 assists per game.
Paul George is also returning after being limited to six games last season. For some reason he will be starting at power forward for the Pacers this year. He should be good for the most part but will struggle against those bigger forwards in the Western Conference. It will be exciting to see him back on the court battling LeBron and Melo in the East. The Pacers will need a heroic effort from him if they hope to make the playoffs. The Pacers lost Roy Hibbert and David West in the off-season. The addition of Monta Ellis will help but George needs to become a better playmaker for this team.
Best pickup(s): The addition of DeMarre Carroll is a huge pickup for the Raptors. It seems like they lacked toughness last season and he will help them in that aspect. He is a great defender that can space the floor. He’s an excellent role player that the Raptors need. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan can carry the load as playmakers but Carroll will be the guy getting open shots and he needs to hit them.
Player that needs to deliver: Derrick Rose has to deliver for the Bulls. He played in 51 games last season and he managed to play in the playoffs. He only shot 40% from the field and 28% from beyond the arc. He just had another surgery after taking an accidental elbow in their first practice so he might miss opening night. Whenever he returns he has to play at a high level for this team. They have a new coach and should have a better offensive flow this year. He has to be consistent if they want to advance in the playoffs and potentially beat LeBron James.
Questions: Can the Hawks still win 50+ games after losing Carroll? Will the Cavaliers cruise to the playoffs? Will the 8th seed have a losing record? Can the Miami Heat stay healthy? Will Derrick Rose get hurt again?