2016-17 NBA Season Preview: Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions

The 2016-17 NBA Season gets underway on Tuesday night as the Cleveland Cavaliers will begin their title defense after coming back from a 3-1 series deficit against the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals. According to OddsShark.com, the Cavaliers enter the season as heavy favorites to repeat as Eastern Conference Champions as nearly the entire roster returns.

The rest of the Eastern Conference went through some pretty major shakeups during the offseason. Dwyane Wade is now a member of the Chicago Bulls after departing the Miami Heat, the only team he’s ever played for, and will be joined by Rajon Rondo in Chicago. Al Horford left the Atlanta Hawks and decided to join the Boston Celtics after the Hawks struggled to improve over recent years.

Every single team in the Eastern Conference spent the offseason trying to improve its roster in an attempt to run down the Cavaliers. After some preseason film study and research, it’s time to roll out which eight teams will make the 2016-17 Eastern Conference Playoffs.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers (60-22)

The Cavaliers will return their entire starting five and were able to add Mike Dunleavy, Jr. from the Chicago Bulls. Dunleavy will add some more perimeter shooting to the Cavaliers’ offense while also providing some much-needed length on the wing. The only real notable loss for Cleveland was Timofey Mozgov leaving to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers.

2. Chicago Bulls (50-32)

Honestly, this team isn’t really constructed all that well as there are zero outside shooters that are expected to play major minutes. Nikola Mirotic and Doug McDermott will see time as role players, but the starting lineup will be devoid of any shooting threats. That being said, Rondo, Wade, and Jimmy Butler should do a great job of working open mid-range shots for the offense.

3. Toronto Raptors (49-33)

The Raptors lost Bismack Biyombo, who was their best interior defender and rebounder which could cause some problems, but Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan form the best backcourt in the Eastern Conference, and a full year of DeMarre Carroll and Jonas Valanciunas, should be enough for the Raptors to finish in the top-three.

4. Boston Celtics (47-35)

The Celtics went into the offseason with the hopes of making some serious upgrades with the cap room and the numerous draft picks they possessed. Things didn’t happen exactly as general manager Danny Ainge had hoped, as the Celtics only ended up adding Al Horford through free agency and Jaylen Brown with the No. 3 overall pick. This team is still good enough to compete in the upper-echelon of the conference.

5. Indiana Pacers (45-37)

The Pacers added Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young through trades and then signed Al Jefferson off the free agent market. The projected starting five of Teague, Monta Ellis, Paul George, Young, and Jefferson is as good as any team in the Eastern Conference not named the Cleveland Cavaliers. If the Pacers can gel early under new head coach Nate McMillan, they could be the biggest threats to the Cavaliers.

6. New York Knicks (43-39)

Phil Jackson finally got tired of watching the Knicks be one of the worst teams in the NBA and did something about it. He hired Jeff Hornacek to take over the reins and then traded for Derrick Rose and added Joakim Noah, Courtney Lee, and Brandon Jennings through free agency. If Rose and Noah can stay healthy, the Knicks could return to the playoffs.

7. Milwaukee Bucks (42-40)

Losing Khris Middleton was a crushing blow for the Bucks this preseason. That being said, an entire year of Giannia Antetokounmpo running the point and the additions of Michael Beasley, Mirza Teletovic, and Matthew Dellavedova could be enough to get this team over the edge and into the playoffs

8. Orlando Magic (41-41)

The Magic pulled one of the most surprising moves of the offseason when they traded Victor Oladipo to the Oklahoma City Thunder on draft night for Serge Ibaka. Ibaka goes from being the No. 3 option in Oklahoma City to possibly the No. 1 option in Orlando. New head coach Frank Vogel has some talent to work with and should be able to guide this team to the playoffs this season.

[Featured Image by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images]