Basketball

Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions

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With the 2021-22 NBA season quickly approaching starting on October 19, there are already standout teams that had key offseason additions. What will the playoff picture look like in the Eastern Conference in 2022?

Play-In Tournament

The Eastern Conference undoubtedly got better in the offseason. With key additions made by multiple teams, you’ll likely see some new faces in the leaderboards, as well as some teams drop dramatically.

The play-in tournament consists of four teams from each conference: the 7, 8, 9 and 10 seeds. These four teams compete for the seven and eight playoff seeds.

10. Charlotte Hornets

Although the Hornets still have growing players in LaMelo Ball, Miles Bridges and P.J. Washington, and added Kelly Oubre Jr. in the offseason, they still have a lot of work to do. Finishing the season with a 33-39 record in 2021, the Hornets suffered a blowout loss to the Indiana Pacers in their play-in game.

Growth isn’t always linear. You may see the Hornets take a step up and see key improvements in roster talent without the playoff position to show for it. Regardless, the Hornets will be one of the most exciting teams to watch in the 2021-22 season.

9. Indiana Pacers

Watch out for a potential Play-In Tournament rematch between the Hornets and Pacers, but this time, hopefully with healthy lineups on both ends.

The Pacers have the chance to be a really good team. If Caris LeVert and T.J. Warren can get back on the court and create chemistry with Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turner, and Domantas Sabonis, they have a very high chance of moving up to the eighth or ninth seeds.

With a healthy lineup of Brogdon, LeVert, Warren, Sabonis, and Turner, the Pacers have a high chance to compete.

8. Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers are in a tricky predicament. With no knowledge about what will happen with Ben Simmons, who can really say what happens in Philly’s season? Their production will obviously take a dip without Simmons on the court; and is a team led by Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris geared to make a big playoff push? Maybe. Maybe the offense will be more free-flowing, or maybe they’ll become stagnant with no additional playmaker.

Again, it’s hard to predict where the 76ers will lie come playoff time without knowing what happens with Ben Simmons, but you can know this, Doc Rivers will come out to compete no matter what.

7. New York Knicks

After a Most Improved Player Award, his first ever All-Star appearance, and the Knicks first playoff berth since the Carmelo Anthony era, Julius Randle and the Knicks look to improve once again with the additions of Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier.

Having the Knicks finishing as the seven seed isn’t a knock to them by any means. They were one of the more surprising and exciting teams of the 2020-21 season. This is more a sentiment to how good the East got this offseason. I fully expect the Knicks to win their play-in game to solidify the seven seed in the playoffs.

NBA Playoffs Seeding

Based on regular season play and following the Play-In Tournament, expect to see some familiar faces in the playoffs and some others on the rise in the ranks.

8. Indiana Pacers

IF the Pacers are healthy come playoff time, they will take the eight seed. There is no arguing the talent on the roster. As mentioned above, with arguably a top 20 talent in Sabonis, the Pacers have the means to make a big playoff push this season.

7. New York Knicks

With Julius Randle becoming a rising star, the Knicks made moves to be better this offseason. Key offseason additions, the drafting of Texas big man, Jericho Sims, and increasing talent growth of Obi Toppin will put Tom Thibodeau in great position to win games.

6. Boston Celtics

This is where it gets fun. After an underwhelming 36-36 season in 2021, the Boston Celtics look to make a major improvement. With ever-growing talent in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the Celtics want to strike while the iron’s hot.

Boston had a quiet offseason, but made some key adjustments to fill in spots they needed to improve. One of the biggest moves of the offseason was the departure of Kemba Walker. Whether this is good or bad, Celtics fans should be excited about what’s to come in the team’s future.

The Celtics have multiple guards who have the potential for big seasons, from role players, to starting talent. Players who had great summer league and NBA pre-season appearances in Romeo Langford, Aaron Nesmith, and Payton Pritchard will stand out to fans in the regular season, as well as new additions to the roster.

Three key additions to the roster that will be seen immediately making an impact are Al Horford, Dennis Schroder, and Josh Richardson. With new (and old) guard and forward talent coming to Boston, be prepared to see a large improvement on last season.

5. Atlanta Hawks

The Atlanta Hawks shocked the world with their 2021 playoff run. Finishing with a 41-31 record and 5th in the East, the Hawks made it to the Eastern Conference Finals where they lost in six games to the Milwaukee Bucks. Obviously, superstar talent Trae Young plays a huge part in the Hawks’ success, but who else should fans be on the lookout for to make an impact this season?

There is plenty of young talent on this Hawks roster. If their young players can stay healthy and grow throughout the season, you might see more of the same playoff excitement in Atlanta. Players like Cam Reddish, Onyeka Okongwu, and De’Andre Hunter can make a major impact to this roster when healthy.

Then you have the young gunslingers in Kevin Huerter and Bogdan Bogdanovic that can light you up from anywhere on the court at any given time.

Not to mention the highflyer in John Collins and defensive specialists in Clint Capela and Gorgui Dieng. This team has everything you could want as a fan. They’re exciting to watch and can get it done on both ends. Will they have what it takes to make another finals push?

4. Chicago Bulls

The Chicago Bulls might’ve had the biggest offseason. With the additions of DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball, and Alex Caruso, the Bulls are back to relevancy for the first time in about five seasons.

We all know the superstar talent that is Zach LaVine and what a great a scorer he’s become since coming to Chicago, but now that he has two playmakers starting next to him in Lonzo Ball and DeMar DeRozan, he might become even more impressive.

In the 2021 Preseason, the Bulls are second in PPG, averaging 118. They are also second in RPG (55.7) and third in APG (28.7). Head coach, Billy Donovan will look to utilize small-ball lineups and get the team running in transition, so look for those fast break points to skyrocket as well.

With a starting lineup of Lonzo Ball, Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Williams (if healthy), and Nikola Vucevic, the Bulls will be exciting to watch. Throw Alex Caruso, Coby White, draft night steal, Ayo Dosunmu, and Javonte Green in the mix and you have a high caliber team on both ends of the court.

3. Miami Heat

The Miami Heat look to take a major leap in their play in the 2021-22 season. Key signings of Kyle Lowry and P.J. Tucker will play tremendously into this.

With arguably the best defensive roster in the NBA, the Heat will look to capitalize on a run-and-gun style of play. A starting lineup of Lowry, Duncan Robinson, Jimmy Butler, Tucker, and Bam Adebayo is nothing to scoff at; in fact, it might even be scary.

With the possibility of Victor Oladipo returning before Christmas, the defensive prowess of this starting lineup could grow even more. Throw this in with preseason star Tyler Herro stepping up his game, and you have a top three Eastern Conference team.

The Heat also made huge signings in Omer Yurtseven, defensive specialist and undiscovered diamond (in my opinion), Markieff Morris, and Marcus Garrett. Garrett might not see huge minutes in his first year, but he has the potential to be another dog on the defensive side of the court.

Don’t be surprised if you see the Heat suffocating your favorite teams for 48 minutes.

2. Brooklyn Nets

Another team that’s, in a way, hard to predict their season is the Brooklyn Nets. What will happen with Kyrie Irving? Only time can tell. Regardless of the Irving situation, the Nets still have two generation talents in Kevin Durant and James Harden; is it really hard to argue their success?

The big additions made to the Nets roster comes in Paul Millsap, Patty Mills, and formerly retired LaMarcus Aldridge; however, the key to the Nets success will be health.

In the 2021 playoffs, we saw Kevin Durant wheel-and-deal the Nets to a game seven against the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks. If James Harden can stay healthy, the Nets have the shot at a chip sitting right in front of them. Will this be the year that James Harden solidifies his name in gold?

Key players such as Nicolas Claxton, Blake Griffin, and Joe Harris will have to do exactly what they’re supposed to do in this roster: be role players in the system. Harris will have to hit shots, as he did incredibly well last season, Claxton will have to be a defensive anchor, and Griffin will have to score when needed, although that shouldn’t be hard with Harden and Durant on the floor.

1. Milwaukee Bucks

Your 2021 NBA champions look to remain atop the NBA world in 2022. Although the Bucks didn’t add much in the offseason, they didn’t lose much either. Their starting lineup of Jrue Holiday, Donte DiVincenzo, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Brook Lopez will remain intact. The Bucks also kept key players in fan-favorite Bobby Portis and Pat Connaughton.

The Bucks will likely finish with the best record in the Eastern Conference. With the growth of leaders Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton, I don’t see another team taking the crown for regular season champions. As an all-around roster, the Bucks take the cake.

With that being said, Giannis is looking scary:


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