Okay let’s get one thing straight. The only way any other team would make it to the Finals would be if the Cavaliers continue the style of play defensivly they are on right now, and if Isaiah Thomas doesn’t make a huge impact when he returns from his hip injury. But assuming they don’t get any better, the East is wide open.
So who has a legitimate shot for the East? A lot of teams are atop the East right now that will settle back into reality as the season wears on. No-one truly expects the Pistons and the Magic to hold top 3 spots, but that is still left to be seen. The Celtics, the Bucks, and the Raptors are those teams to contend if all crashes down in “Believeland”.
The Bucks just acquired an Eric Bledsoe that is on a mission to prove he can be one of the top players in a contending team. He started his career in a Clippers team with Chris Paul as the floor general, so needless to say, he was the backup. They were a solid playoff team, but it was not until his tenure with the Phoenix Suns where eyes were turned. He averaged 18.4 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 5.4 assists while his time in Phoenix which is well above mediocre but they never reached a playoffs. His former teammates Isaiah Thomas, Goran Dragic, and Marcus and Markieff Morris all left and found great success in other organizations, leaving Eric to carry the team. He is currently in his prime and what better way to entire your prime than to join a new team with an MVP-caliber player and something to prove?
The Toronto Raptors are just always in the mix nowadays. This will be their fifth straight playoff run, assuming they make it, and many can assume they will. Of course, the backcourt of Lowry and DeRozan give it to you each night, but the contributions of Jonas Valanciunas on the boards, and the exciting athleticism of Norman Powell to provide sparks off the bench is major, as well as the support of CJ Miles and Serge Ibaka to provide floor spacing to get more perimeter shots. The Raptors look better than they did last year, perhaps a move to acquire a shooting big might be the key, however, but as for now you can expect them to make noise in the East.
Here is something you probably did not see coming. Boston gets an influx of new faces, including a new floor general that replaced the beloved wonder-boy IT, Gordon Hayward breaks his ankle in the first quarter of the season opener, and oh….Boston is 9-2. Don’t be too quick to give Kyrie all the credit, however. Just like last year, this team plays as a team and doesn’t depend on one single person to win them a game. Kyrie Irving is not averaging any career highs but he is playing to win. They sit atop the East and are on a 9 game win streak. Jaylen Brown has stepped up incredibly and is looking like he has a bright future for this team, and the same can be said for Jayson Tatum. His contributions to this team is tremendous as rookie, especially as he is taking over the minutes for Hayward. Marcus Smart still provides valuable minutes offensively and defensively, Al Horford is still an All-Star caliber center, and Brad Stevens is looking like a future Coach Pop. Need I say more? If the Celtics don’t make it to the Finals this year, that’s alright, they are lined up for the next 6-7 years anyway.