It’s quite tough to predict what will happen in the NBA Eastern Conference. Analysts believe that the Chicago Bulls are the team that will surprise everyone by clinching the playoffs. The Atlanta Hawks will probably finish in the top three after their stellar postseason campaign. The Miami Heat, too, remain dangerous, especially after their offseason haul.
Given the realities in the East, it may be imperative to take this list with a grain of salt. There’s a reason why the following teams made the playoffs last year. However, there are some holes both in their team and in the whole organization that makes them a bit malleable compared to others.
NBA East in peril:
3. New York Knicks
The only real reason why the Knicks are on this NBA list is because of their subpar playoff performance last year. They delivered in the regular season by finishing fourth with a 41-31 record. However, for all the hype that surrounded them, they got bopped by the Atlanta Hawks in the first round in just five games.
This reveals quite a few things about them. As for one, perhaps they’re easy to read and prepare for. They are a tough defensive team. But on offense, they lack a bunch of things. Props to them for adding Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier who will help Julius Randle with some scoring chores. But the big question is, will this be enough to outlast up-and-coming teams like the Charlotte Hornets or the Chicago Bulls — teams who have made some key NBA offseason tweaks themselves? What about the Miami Heat who just beefed their roster up with two champions in Kyle Lowry and PJ Tucker? Will they be able to adjust to other teams who were kept a close eye on their mediocre playoff performance?
Don’t get us wrong, the Knicks have all the NBA tools they need. They have a very talented roster led by one of the best coaches in the league. But that postseason performance keeps burning in our memory. If they make the postseason, then good for them. It means that they learned their lesson. If not, then this means that they haven’t fully transformed into the playoff team that they aspire to be.
2. Boston Celtics
Boston Celtics fans were puzzled by their team’s performance last NBA season. They made it to the postseason as the seventh seed and got booted out in the first round. It simply doesn’t make sense why a stacked team performed at a mediocre rate. There are lots of hypotheses on why this was so. Some say there were internal problems, particularly about head coach Brad Stevens. He himself admitted that he was getting a bit tired of being on the sidelines. Can we say that they’ve resolved this issue after promoting him to the president of basketball operations? Another hypothesis questions the fit of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. For all their accomplishments early in their career, do they really complement one another?
The 2021-22 NBA season will be critical for the Celtics. They will be under a new head coach in Ime Udoka. We’ve read he’s really good. And the Celtics have a pretty good track record of selecting the best coaches. But as always, Celtics fans need to see some actual wins to develop the confidence in him. It’s this relative instability in the Celtics organization that makes it difficult to lay our chips on them.
1. Washington Wizards
It was great to see the Wizards in the NBA playoffs last season. Especially since it was clear very early on that the Russell Westbrook experiment wasn’t working. It was good to see Bradley Beal get at least a consolation prize for all his efforts. In the offseason, we can say that the Wizards rewarded Beal with a massive haul from the Westbrook trade. They now have Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — three players who were part of elite caliber teams in the West. Not to mention that Kuzma and KCP are both champions. They took things up a notch by adding Spencer Dinwiddie, a player who is a beast in his own regard.
Change is good. Wizards fans have all the right to welcome their brand new set of players. At the same time, isn’t this massive roster overhaul too much? Can these players adjust their playstyle according to Wes Unseld Jr.’s playbook, who, mind you, is also entering his first season as head coach? The Wizards look stacked on paper. But we need to actually see them in action to determine if this new NBA roster can deliver the goods.