- Toronto Raptors [58-22] – Kyle Lowry decided to stay and mess around and end up at a potential 1-seed in the East with four games left to play as of today. DeMar DeRozan is playing some of his best games this season and the Raptors are poised to make a run. The Raptors are one of few teams to pursue any free agents and haven’t changed their staring five much since last year’s disappointing playoff run. Look for them to move past the first round and do something this season. It must be something about the ‘Villanova curse’ Kyle Lowry has that prevents him from making it past the second round. But the Wildcats won it all this year. Let’s see if the Raptors can catch fire this playoffs and contest for the title.
- Boston Celtics [54-26] – The Celtics have played one of the best regular seasons under Brad Stevens in recent history. That’s saying a lot for a team shadowed by the Cavaliers. But, with the recent news of Kyrie Irving not playing the rest of the season or for the playoffs, it looks pretty difficult to win a title without him. The Celtics have played through adversity without Irving, but it is crazy to think that they will challenge the Cavaliers or Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals. Kyrie is a magician in the playoffs and without him or Gordon Hayward, the Celtics are going to have to rely on young emerging stars to string some wins together in the postseason.
- Cleveland Cavaliers [49-31] – I have no idea how to begin to talk about this year’s Cavaliers. They bring in IT, they let go of IT. They have the most ridiculous ideology of running a franchise and it looks like just about everyone with a job in the head office has to check in with LeBron James before doing anything. With that being said, let’s focus on what’s important. On the court, LeBron James has disproved the natural aging process of an athlete. He’s been playing at his best and the self-proclaimed King gets ready for another war in the East to retain his streak of appearances at the Finals. You can’t bet on James during the playoffs, so let’s just say I’ll leave him to do whatever he needs to do to win. Notice how I didn’t mention anyone else on the team. Because they’re irrelevant and interchangeable based on how James slept the night before. All jokes aside, look for the Cavs to play for the title again.
- Philadelphia 76ers [50-30] – Trust the process. Enough said. I did not have faith in the 76ers this season, but they have proven me wrong. They’re on a 14-game winning streak and look like the best team in the East. For now. Markelle Fultz’s future in the playoffs is unclear. Embiid looks like he’ll return. Ben Simmons looks like the lottery pick the city of Philadelphia was looking for. This young team led by veteran JJ Reddick will have to stay strong and remain creative to beat these teams. They have a 32-18 record against the Eastern Conference which isn’t bad considering a majority of the roster has never played in the League prior to this year. They’re young, they’re hungry. The process is still going. We’ll see what they come up with this year in the playoffs. Philadelphia looks pretty great this year in sports, capturing a Super Bowl title, having Villanova win its 2nd title in 3 years…onto the 76ers.
- Indiana Pacers [48-33] – After saying goodbye to Paul George, the Pacers seemed like they had to wait a few years to be good again. This is before we learned just how good Victor Oladipo is. He’s played like a man on a mission, obliterating past some of the best guards and finishing strong at the rim. It’s never a one-man show in a playoff series, but if he shows up during crunch time, I can see the Pacers move past the first round.
- Miami Heat [43-37] – Welcome to Wade County 2.0. The Miami Heat are in the playoffs and they have their leader back. Dwayne Wade looks good enough to play well in the playoffs, but the rest of the team is somewhat shaky. They posted up a 30-21 record against the East, so they’re not very consistent. I’m really interested to see what the Heat can do come playoff time against other teams.
- Washington Wizards [42-38] – The Wizards were my team last year to stun the East. And it almost happened. After losing a great series to the Boston Celtics, the Wizards were poised to do it again the upcoming year. But, their leader John Wall just didn’t seem the same. With all of the controversies on and off the court for Wall, the Wizards have a lot of negotiations to go through during the offseason to keep Wall on the roster. Yes, I’m a believer that the Wizards need John Wall to make it to the playoffs year after year. Bradley Beal is great but can’t facilitate the offense while being asked to drop 20+ a game. I don’t know if the Wizards are good enough to win a title, but if Wall plays like he wants to be a part of the team, they could make another deep run.
- Milwaukee Bucks [43-37] – The Bucks have one of the best players in the League today. His name is Giannis Antetokounmpo. His name is just as hard to spell as it is to defend him against him on the court. In a 1-on-1 situation, on any part of the floor, you can’t guard the Greek Freak. His skill set is rare and deserves appreciation. But, the Bucks are not good enough to make a playoff run. Maybe they win a playoff series. They have players that are valuable to the team moving forward like Brogdon and Parker. They need to be healthy and that’s not the case this year. Give them 2 years.
My prediction is…