- Advertisement -
HomeBasketballNBAAfter Lillard, Holiday moves, How does NBA's Eastern Conference stack up?

After Lillard, Holiday moves, How does NBA’s Eastern Conference stack up?

- Advertisement -

As an all-time great play-by-play announcer would say, “business is about to pick up.”

The Boston Celtics countered the Dame Lillard to Milwaukee move and acquired Jrue Holiday from Portland for guard Malcolm Brogdon, big man Robert Williams and picks.

Holiday is a great fit in Boston. The East is essentially a two-team race now.

Holiday should have no issue deferring to Jason Tatum and Jaylen Brown on offense. Holiday at times in Milwaukee was asked to do too much on that end, leading to some very inefficient showings in the postseason. That’s not his fault, though, as the roster in Milwaukee at points forced Holiday into a role he’s not qualified for.

Boston may now be the most versatile team in the league, particularly on the defensive end. The Celtics can play big or small. Boston has the personnel to switch everything on the defensive end. Overall, the Celtics top six players may be the best 1-6 in the league.

If Boston can be more consistent on offense, the Celtics should win the east. Boston has given Milwaukee fits the last handful of seasons, after all.

It’s clear Boston and Milwaukee are the top two teams in the league, and probably the two best in the whole league.

So how the does the rest of the East stack up? Let’s take a look.

  1. Boston: The Celtics core is younger than Milwaukee’s and just as battle tested.
  2. Milwaukee: Giannis and Dame could end the season as the best duo in the league. Boston is ahead of the Bucks because the Celtics have given Milwaukee hell the last handful of years.
  3. Miami: losing Gabe Vincent and Max Strus in free agency is big as far as depth foes. Miami this season may find itself relying too heavily on 37-year-old Kyle Lowry. It’s tough, now, to doubt coach Eric Spoelstra and Jimmy Butler.
  4. Philadelphia: The 76ers placement is totally based on talent. The Joel Embiid/James Harden/Tyrese Maxey trio is a really good top three. But Embiid gets worse in the playoffs every year. His scoring was down 7 points a game in 2023 postseason from his MVP regular season. Embiid’s usage drops from 38 percent in the regular season to 28 percent in the playoffs too. James Harden is still pushing for a trade out of Philly. I’d like to know if the Sixers made a push for Dame or Jrue at all?
  5. Cleveland: I think another year together will be good for this core. Bringing Strus in plugs the gaping hole the Cavs had at small forward. Cleveland has to find ways to stagger the Evan Mobley/Jarrett Allen minutes. You can’t have two bigs on the court together when neither can get their own shot. The Donovan Mitchell extension looms.
  6. New York: The Knicks bullied the Cavs in the first round. New York is a team full of try hards. Thibodeau’s style has a tendency to get old quickly. Guard Jalen Brunson is a borderline star. Forward Julius Randle continues to be productive despite limitations. The Knicks need more from wing RJ Barrett going into year five.
  7. Atlanta: The Hawks finally got off the John Collins train after he’d been in trade rumors for much of his career. Trae Young says he’s under-appreciated. I tend to agree when other players with similar stats and team success are lauded much more. Atlanta is just good enough to make the playoffs, but not strong enough to make any noise.
  8. Toronto: a team full of “B” players. Forward Scottie Barnes took a huge step back last year after his Rookie of the Year season in 2021. The Raptons lost steady point guard Fred VanVleet to Houston in free agency. I think the team overvalues forward OG Anunoby considering he’s a 3-and-D guy who’s streaky at best from 3. Quietly signing Dennis Schroeder could pay off huge.
  9. Brooklyn: The Nets were a nice story after the Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant deals. Forward Mikal Bridges came on as a high-level scorer. The team made the playoffs after the two midseason deals but finished 11-21 including the postseason and was swept in the first round. Brooklyn has a lot of nice complementary parts. If Ben Simmons is right, the Nets could scare some teams.
  10. Orlando: The Magic would be higher if their guards were better. I love Orlando’s frontcourt versatility. Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero have a real chance to be all-stars this season. 
  11. Indiana: I put the Pacers ahead of the Bulls because of the upside of Indiana’s younger players. Tyrese Haliburton is already an all-star. Bennedict Mathurin for chunks of last season made a strong case for the rookie of the year award. Myles Turner, entering his ninth season with the Pacers, is one of the best defensive centers in the league. 
  12. Chicago: The Bulls didn’t do anything this offseason. Chicago returns the same core to a team that’s missed the playoffs in five of the last six seasons. The Bulls are going nowhere. Don’t be surprised if Chicago’s most valuable players (DeMar DeRozan, Zach Lavine, Alex Caruso) are dealt before the trade deadline.
  13. Detroit: The Pistons big splash this offseason was bringing in coach Monty Williams on the biggest coaching deal in league history. There’s nowhere to go but up for the Pistons, who finished with a league-worst 17-65 record last season. Getting a full season out of Cade Cunningham should make Detroit more competitive. Rookie Ausar Thompson showed a competitive edge during Summer League that should carry over to the regular season.
  14. Washington: The Wizards enter the season with a brand-new backcourt and no expectations. Tyus Jones in Memphis was the best backup point guard in the league. Now he gets a chance to run a team. Jordan Poole comes over from the Warriors (penthouse to the outhouse, anybody?). Poole has the potential to be a 25-points-a-game scorer. Unfortunately, his scoring average could surpass the Wizards’ win total this season.
  15. Charlotte: There’s talent in Charlotte, I promise. LaMelo Ball, who put up 23.4/8.4/6.4 last season, only played in 36 games. Forward Miles Bridges is coming off what is essentially a year-long suspension for domestic violence. Rookie No. 2 pick Brandon Miller’s role in a murder this past winter is still unknown. In a league that’s all about offense, the Hornets last year had the worst offensive rating of all 30 teams.


Coming Wednesday: power ranking the West.

- Advertisement -
- Advertisment -

Most Popular