Keeping an eye on the East
Let’s check in on our rivals after a hectic offseason for the conference.
It’s that time of year again. Players posting videos of workouts, failed trade requests bearing consequences, and rookie hype through the roof — it must be training camp time! Well, almost. Basketball is so close to being back we can practically taste it. With a big season on the horizon for the boys in green, it’s good to check in on your biggest rivals every once in a while. Most have had pretty rocky offseasons for the most part, so let’s review the Celtics five biggest threats in the East and where they stand heading into the start of training camp.
Out: Gabe Vincent, Max Strus, Victor Oladipo
In: Not Damian Lillard, Josh Richardson
It’s been a pretty brutal offseason for Miami. We can talk about Damian Lillard in a second, but the undrafted core that helped get the #8 seed to the Finals has been broken up, Vincent is now in Los Angeles with LeBron and Strus got a huge deal with Cleveland to help shore up their wing rotation. It leaves them very light off the bench, not to mention Gabe Vincent can’t torture Boston anymore. Already, the roster leaves a bit to be desired. Once you get through that and realize that their only real plan to improve beyond this current roster is through a Damian Lillard trade that Portland doesn’t want, it gets even uglier. Miami is going to be good next year, as they always are, but as of right now, their roster is worse than it was at this time last year.
Out: Jevon Carter, Joe Ingles, Wesley Matthews
In: Brook Lopez (resigned), Khris Middleton (resigned), Malik Beasley
Milwaukee has maintained relatively the same core since they won the title a few years ago. The Giannis-Jrue-Middleton-Lopez squad gets another year after being 1st rounded by the 8-seed Heat last season. They haven’t done much to truly update the team, but getting a healthier Khris Middleton is as valuable as any FA acquisition. Their losses only ended up being Jevon Carter and Joe Ingles. Two solid players whose loss might be felt once we get into playoff time, but the Bucks should be relatively good next season. As long as they have Giannis, they will be a force. It does feel like a team that may make a trade at some point, but for now, it’s basically the same team as last year.
Out: James Harden (soon), Pride, Shake Milton, Georges Niang, Jalen McDaniels
In: Mo Bamba, Patrick Beverley
Just when you think this team can’t get more chaotic, they outdo themselves with a tumultuous offseason capped off with James Harden claiming he will never play under Daryl Morey ever again. Whether that’s true or not, he was fined $100K and the team has been left with far more questions than answers. Joel Embiid only has so many elite seasons left and Philly was hoping to pair him with Harden for the long haul. With that likely no longer being the case and it looking more and more impossible to get a star back for James Harden, this Philly team has a very…uncomfortable season ahead of them.
Out: Evan Fournier, Obi Toppin
In: Josh Hart (resigned)
New York is in a bit of a predicament. Their current team is good, but it’s just a bit off the level of the other top teams in the East. They are a star away, but who they end up acquiring is a whole other question. For now, it’s been a relatively quiet offseason for New York. Resigning Josh Hart was a great call for them, he’ll be a massive part of their roster going forward. Outside of that, it’s been a sleepy summer in the Big Apple. I think this team will be better this year and maybe just one move away from really being considered a contender.
Out: Cedi Osman
In: Max Strus, Georges Niang, Caris LeVert (re-signed)
For a team on the up and up, Cleveland needed a good offseason to really plant their flag in the East. Not to mention, the Donovan Mitchell clock is starting to tick and the noise about him still wanting to go to New York is starting to get louder and louder. In response, Cleveland brought in Max Strus and Georges Niang to shore up their wing rotation. It’s…fine, but not the big ticket acquisition I think many were expecting. Strus is a good player, but four years, $64 million is a bit heavy. Niang never got the trust of the coaching staff in Philly, so who’s to know how he will step up with a bigger opportunity? Cleveland, like last year, is going to be a tough out. But, we’ll see if they have the next level to become true contenders.
There are other teams in the East that are going to cause problems for the Celtics. Watch out for Atlanta and Indiana this year — I think both could be pretty scrappy. My serious dark horse right now is Orlando, but we’ll save official predictions until we are closer to the start of the season. For now, let’s all just keep hoping that Portland has no interest in Tyler Herro.