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The Fast Break: Eastern Conference preview

Now that the NBA season has officially begun, here is a preview of each Eastern Conference team. Be sure to check out the Western Conference preview here

Atlanta Hawks

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After a playoff appearance in 2021, the Hawks look primed for another competitive season. Trae Young and John Collins will lead the way for this young team, with veterans Clint Capela and Bogdan Bogdanovic helping out along the way. They should fight for a No. 4-6 seed in the East. 

Boston Celtics

It was a disappointing 2021 season for the Celtics, and with that came major changes. Kemba Walker is out, and former Celtic Al Horford is back. Still, this team will only go as far as Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can take them. I think they’ll be back near the top of the East this year. 

Brooklyn Nets

The Kyrie Irving drama is certainly concerning, but this team still has two top-10 players in Kevin Durant and James Harden and a strong supporting cast of Joe Harris, Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge. I think they are still the team to beat in this conference. 

Charlotte Hornets

It’s the LaMelo show in Charlotte, everybody. LaMelo Ball had an impressive rookie season and will now hope to take that next step and lead this team to a playoff berth after narrowly missing it last year. Gordon Hayward having a healthy season would also pay dividends as a top scoring option for the Hornets. 

Chicago Bulls

The Windy City made some splashes this offseason, bringing in Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan. All-Stars Zach LaVine and Nikola Vučević will still be leading the way, but I like the Bulls’ chances at making noise this season. Their lack of three-point shooting is a bit of a concern, but they simply have too much talent to not overcome that. 

Cleveland Cavaliers

Third overall pick Evan Mobley figures to be a future star in today’s league, but he’ll be fighting for minutes in a crowded frontcourt this season. Collin Sexton and Darius Garland had solid 2021 campaigns, and they still have 2020’s fifth overall pick, Isaac Okoro, too. Cleveland needs to figure out what its plan is sooner rather than later. 

Detroit Pistons

Please, Detroit. Just let Cade Cunningham play. Cunningham was the consensus No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft and has the talent to completely change a franchise’s trajectory, but Detroit needs to make sure he has the room to make mistakes in what will be another losing season for the Pistons. 

Indiana Pacers

The Pacers seem to be in no man’s land right now. The team isn’t good enough to make a championship run, but it isn’t bad enough for a top draft pick. A healthy season from Caris LeVert would help, but I’m not sure their core of Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon and Myles Turner can lead this team to anything more than a playoff appearance. 

Miami Heat

I really like the Heat this year. Maybe it’s my bias toward former Raptors, but the addition of Kyle Lowry is such a big move. Lowry is an elite floor general who plays great defense and knows how to perform in the playoffs. Him, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo and their young wings —  Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson — should be competitive at the top of the Eastern Conference. 

Milwaukee Bucks

The defending champs are running it back and figure to be just as good in 2022. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday are such staples on this team, and the fact that Antetokounmpo is flashing progression with his jump shot tells me the Bucks are looking to repeat as champions. 

New York Knicks

Knicks fans enjoyed a great season in 2021, making the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Unfortunately, I don’t think the success will be replicated. Their two stars, Julius Randle and RJ Barrett, played a lot of minutes last season and paid the price for it with sluggish playoff performances. The Knicks are going to manage their players more, and their record is going to take a hit because of it. 

Orlando Magic

The Magic were blessed with Jalen Suggs at the fifth overall pick in this year’s NBA draft. He figures to be a focal point of this team’s rebuild alongside fellow young players Cole Anthony and Mo Bamba, with the hopes that Anthony and Bamba can become more consistent this season. 

Philadelphia 76ers

The Ben Simmons saga is something I hope Philly resolves soon because it’s distracting people from what is actually a talented team. Joel Embiid is still one of the best players in the league, and Tobias Harris blossomed into Embiid’s Robin in 2021. The Sixers will be a top team in the East this year, with or without Simmons. 

Toronto Raptors

I know, Raptors bias here. But I think Toronto is going to surprise people this year. After playing their home games in Tampa Bay in 2021 due to the pandemic, the Raps return home with a young team filled with versatile players. OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet figure to carry the load while 2020 All-Star Pascal Siakam attempts to get back to what he used to be. They won’t be a top seed by any means, but they might flirt with a playoff spot this year. 

Washington Wizards

Bradley Beal. That’s it, honestly. I mean, Spencer Dinwiddie and Kyle Kuzma in new situations will be interesting to watch, but this team figures to be a high-scoring team that can’t stop anybody and sits near the bottom of the East.

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