After a long and crazy offseason, the NBA season is finally underway. The Miami Heat represented the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals last season. They fell to the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals. Can the Heat make another surprising run to the NBA Finals and finally win the championship? Miami tried to upgrade their team by trading for Damian Lillard. When it seemed like Miami was his destination, the Milwaukee Bucks traded Jrue Holiday in a package for Damian Lillard. Will the pairing of Lillard with Giannis be enough for the Bucks to make it back to the NBA Finals? The Boston Celtics eventually landed Jrue Holiday and with that addition, can they make the run for that elusive 18th championship? Can Miami, New York, Cleveland, Philadelphia, or another team make a surprise run? Check out my top 5 Eastern Conference teams heading into 2024 season.
Boston had a busy offseason to say the least. They sent Marcus Smart to Memphis in what was a surprising move. They also traded Malcolm Brogdon in a 3-team trade, but they received Kristaps Porzingis in return. There were rumors that Jaylen Brown could be traded or eventually leave Boston. They signed Brown to the supermax extension. The deal is currently the largest deal in NBA history. Boston wasn’t done because they brought in Jrue Holiday, and he’ll add that defensive presence on the perimeter. They did a sign-and-trade with Dallas for Grant Williams. Boston also traded Robert Williams III in the deal to bring in Jrue Holiday. As you see, Boston has a lot of moving pieces and will take time for them to gel together. After getting things together, this team led by Jayson Tatum is my top team in the Eastern Conference.
Milwaukee had their season ended abruptly last season at the hands of the Miami Heat. The Bucks had a great season and they finished as the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Milwaukee had their fair share of injuries throughout the season. Khris Middleton missed a lot of time as well as Giannis also. They made the blockbuster trade to bring in Damian Lillard. When add Brooke Lopez and Malik Beasley to the starting five, this team will make some noise. Lillard will be hungry with the hopes of finally capturing that elusive championship. They add one of the best offensive players in the league, but they lose a lot on the defensive end. Jrue Holiday is arguably the best perimeter defender in the league. With the Bucks losing a lot in the defense department this is why they’re ranked second in the Eastern Conference.
Miami fell short again in their quest to bring another championship to the franchise. The Heat fell to the Denver Nuggets in the NBA Finals. It was their second defeat in the NBA Finals in the last four years. When Lillard requested a trade from Portland, we all thought he would land in Miami. The Heat lost out on the future Hall-of-Famer, but this will probably motivate them. Miami has a system where they can get the best out of players. They did lose key contributors like Gabe Vincent and Max Strus in free agency. They brought in Josh Richardson in free agency. They also signed R.J. Hampton and he could benefit from the Heat culture. They still have Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Tyler Herro. It wouldn’t surprise me if they finish lower, but they’re a dangerous playoff team.
The 76ers will begin the season with drama around the franchise. The ongoing saga around James Harden is hovering over the franchise. James Harden exercised his player option and then requested a trade from the team. The sooner the Sixers move on from Harden it will benefit them greatly. Tyrese Maxey is ready to step up and have a breakout season. Tobias Harris is still a great option for the Sixers also. Nick Nurse will bring a renewed energy after he was brought in to coach this team. Patrick Beverly will bring a certain toughness to this team. Joell Embiid is the reigning league MVP and he’s coming into camp in better shape. The drama around Harden will determine how this season goes for them. As of now, I’m putting the Sixers in the 4th spot in the Eastern Conference this season.
The final spot was a tough one between the Cavs and the New York Knicks. I’ll go with the Cavs for the 5th spot in the Eastern Conference. Last season, they made the trade to bring in Donovan Mitchell. This year they will have him for the entire season starting at training camp. Evan Mobley will continue to become one of the better big men in the league. They re-signed Caris LeVert during the offseason. Cleveland also added more perimeter shooting by bringing in Max Strus from Miami. Emoni Bates could be an underrated pickup for Cleveland. The former high school sensation could thrive in the Cavs system. The Cavs have one of the best starting lineups in the league. The bench isn’t as deep and that will be a problem later in the season. I’m still picking the Cavs over the Knicks as the 5th best team in the Eastern Conference.
Trav’s Top 5 Eastern Conference Teams
- Boston Celtics
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Miami Heat
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Cleveland Cavaliers