It’s hard to see anyone but the Cleveland Cavaliers winning the Eastern conference and making the NBA Finals. Maybe, the Chicago Bulls, although they fell in six games a few months ago in the playoffs. Anyone else? Not a chance.
The Miami Heat might have gotten a little better, but also a little older. The Washington Wizards seem to be in a year of waiting for Kevin Durant. The Toronto Raptors haven’t won a playoff series in over a decade, and don’t look capable of doing much more than just one, even if they’ve learned a valuable lesson from getting swept against the Wizards.
The Milwaukee Bucks will be better, but they aren’t there yet. The same can be said of the Boston Celtics, and probably the Detroit Pistons. Don’t be surprised if the Orlando Magic are finally in the playoff mix, for the first time since Dwight Howard left them in 2012, but a threat on winning a title? Nope. And not the Indiana Pacers either. The Atlanta Hawks? They’re not going to top what they did last season.
Did the Bulls get better? They stayed the same. They’re counting on Bobby Portis having an impact as a rookie under a head coach who has just came in from coaching college basketball. They’re relying on Jimmy Butler getting even better (and he should), and the same for Derrick Rose, hoping this time he’s healthy for the entire season, and along with Butler be part of the best backcourt in the league. Most of all, they’re counting on Fred Hoiberg figuring things out on offense; the kind of things that Tom Thibodeau seemed to struggle with for quite a few years.
But are they a match for the Cleveland Cavaliers? Irving wasn’t 100% and Kevin Love wasn’t even playing when the Cavaliers beat the Bulls in six games in the conference semifinals, which should have been the de facto conference finals. The Cavaliers haven’t added anyone except for Mo Williams, but they were loaded last season. Tristan Thompson will re-sign, and J.R. Smith probably will too. Anderson Varejao is back from injury. The Cavaliers should be as strong, and maybe even the best in the league, if no one gets injured when it matters the most.
But the Bulls are probably the best team suited to give the Cavaliers problems. But there are a lot of ifs in that possibility. It will be the collision we’ll be waiting for all season. This time, hopefully, both teams are good enough during the regular season in order to make it the conference finals in the playoffs and there, maybe it’ll be a bit more even than in the 2015 postseason.