The Cleveland Cavaliers shocked the world when they came back from a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit to win the franchise’s first NBA title. They enter the 2016-2017 campaign as the Eastern Conference favorites. After that, everything is likely going to chance from the two seed even down to 15. At this point, it’s almost a guess of who will finish where than an actual realistic prediction.
Here’s my guess at what the 2016-2017 NBA Eastern Conference standings will look like.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (1st, 57-25 last season)
The defending NBA champions are back and bring back almost the exact same team as last year. It’s impossible to pick anyone else to win the East. They also have a full year of Tyronn Lue on the sidelines as well as some depth in Channing Frye, Mike Dunleavy, and Chris Andersen. They have the chemistry, the depth, and the talent to head back to the NBA Finals and I fully expect them to do so.
2. Boston Celtics (5th, 48-34 last season)
Brad Stevens had the Celtics right there in the middle of the East standings last season. Add Al Horford into the fold and this could be the second best team behind the Cavs. They were missing a force in the interior and Horford gives them that missing piece to the puzzle. Add rookie Jaylen Brown to the mix, and this team should have Eastern Conference Finals on the horizon.
3. Toronto Raptors (2nd, 56-26 last season)
The Raptors bring back almost the same team as last year, minus big man Bismack Biyombo. There’s no reason to see them take much of a tumble in the standings here. They replaced Biyombo with Jared Sullinger. Don’t expect the Raptors to make a deep playoff run, but do expect them to be right up there towards the top of the East.
4. Chicago Bulls (9th, 42-42 last season)
The Bulls lost Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah to the Knicks…and may have become a better team in the process. After missing the playoffs last year, they decided to shake things up. That started by adding Dwyane Wade to the fold, a veteran leader that still has some gas in the tank at 34 years old. They also went out and added Rajon Rondo to the backcourt and replaced Noah with Robin Lopez. If Wade is still Wade, look for the Bulls to leap to the middle of the conference.
5. Indiana Pacers (7th, 45-37 last season)
I probably could have had the Pacers as the two seed and will likely regret having them this low. The Pacers got better and have a whole lot of depth coming into the season. Adding Jeff Teague, Thad Young, and Al Jefferson make this the most dangerous team to take down the Cavaliers come playoff time.
6. New York Knicks (13th, 32-50 last season)
I have the Knicks taking the biggest leap in the standings after having a superb offseason, adding Rose and Noah. As it always needs to be said with Rose, this pick is based on health. If they can stay healthy, they should be a playoff team. It’s been a big ‘if’ for a while now, though. Brandon Jennings gives them a good insurance option to backup Rose, and Kristaps Porzingis should improve alongside Carmelo Anthony in his second year. The Knicks will struggle early, but should hit a rhythm after that.
7. Charlotte Hornets (6th, 48-34 last season)
This is one team I maybe should have left out of the playoffs after losing Al Jefferson and Jeremy Lin, but I think there’s enough talent there to sneak into the playoffs. The key to them getting in will be Roy Hibbert finding himself and becoming a factor in the post. If he doesn’t then they aren’t getting in.
8. Milwaukee Bucks (12th, 33-49 last season)
The Bucks made some nice improvements in the offseason to become a playoff team. The additions of Matthew Dellavedova, Mirza Teletovic, and Jason Terry give the Bucks some much-needed depth. They’ll help their cornerstones of Jabari Parker and the newly-paid Giannis Antetokounmpo.
OUTSIDE OF PLAYOFFS:
9. Detroit Pistons (8th, 44-38 last season)
The Pistons are an intriguing team. They get better with Tobias Harris, but they still lack that explosive scorer that can shoot from the outside. That’s their biggest weakness and what will keep them out of the playoffs.
10. Miami Heat (3rd, 48-34 last season)
The Heat look like they may be heading toward a rebuild. With no Wade and no Chris Bosh, it’s going to be a new look team with young pieces trying to fill big holes. Don’t expect the Heat to get into the playoffs.
11. Orlando Magic (11th, 35-47 last season)
The Magic backcourt just isn’t good enough to get them to the playoffs.
12. Washington Wizards (10th, 41-41 last season)
The Wizards frontcourt doesn’t jump out to anyone, but their backup is one of the best in the NBA. The question is will it be enough? They missed out on the playoffs last year and I expect them to take a bit of a dip this year after a very weak offseason.
13. Atlanta Hawks (4th, 48-34 last season)
After losing both Teague and Horford, the Hawks take a huge dip in the standings. Dwight Howard won’t help much if he can even make it through the season healthy.
14. Philadelphia 76ers (15th, 10-72 last season)
The 76ers will be better with Joel Embiid finally seeing time on the floor, but will still have plenty of growing pains. Let’s all hope Ben Simmons gets to play sometime in the second half of the season.
15. Brooklyn Nets (14th, 21-61 last season)
The Nets have entered total rebuild mode. This will be an awful season in Brooklyn.
Jake Brown is the Digital Program Manager at CBS Sports Radio and a columnist for CBS Sports Radio, CBS Local Sports, and CBS Local. You can catch him daily on The Jake Brown Show on CBS Radio’s Play.it, iTunes, and Spotify. It’s a weekly sports show mixed in with a bit of entertainment and multiple interviews very week. Jake lives in Queens and being a Mets fan is finally paying off.