NBA Eastern Conference predictions

Kurt Helin

Regular-season standings

  1. Milwaukee Bucks
  2. Brooklyn Nets
  3. Philadelphia 76ers
  4. Miami Heat
  5. Boston Celtics
  6. Toronto Raptors
  7. Indiana Pacers
  8. Atlanta Hawks
  9. Washington Wizards
  10. Orlando Magic
  11. Chicago Bulls
  12. Charlotte Hornets
  13. Detroit Pistons
  14. New York Knicks
  15. Cleveland Cavaliers

First round

Milwaukee Bucks over Atlanta Hawks

Brooklyn Nets over Indiana Pacers

Philadelphia 76ers over Toronto Raptors

Miami Heat over Boston Celtics

Second round

Milwaukee Bucks over Miami Heat

Brooklyn Nets over Philadelphia 76ers

Eastern Conference finals

Milwaukee Bucks over Brooklyn Nets

This is the least confident I have been about a prediction in a long time. The Bucks will have the best regular-season record in the East, but I picked them to go to the Finals more as a fallback than a strong belief in them (although I think Jrue Holiday is a better playoff fit for them). I think Brooklyn — if Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving can stay healthy — can be the better team and may well win the conference. Philadelphia, Miami, and Boston all have a chance to make the Finals. I have the Celtics fifth not because I don’t think they are good, but it’s about health — this team needs Kemba Walker and he is missing the start of the season.

I see the East in tiers. The Bucks will have the best record, but the next four teams — the Nets, 76ers, Heat, Celtics — could finish in any order, they are very even. I think Toronto loses half a step without last season’s centers and finishes sixth. Teams 7-9 also could finish in any order. Chicago, and maybe Charlotte, have the chance to knock Orlando out of the play-in games.

Dan Feldman

Regular-season standings

  1. Milwaukee Bucks
  2. Philadelphia 76ers
  3. Boston Celtics
  4. Toronto Raptors
  5. Brooklyn Nets
  6. Miami Heat
  7. Indiana Pacers
  8. Atlanta Hawks
  9. Washington Wizards
  10. Orlando Magic
  11. Chicago Bulls
  12. Charlotte Hornets
  13. Detroit Pistons
  14. New York Knicks
  15. Cleveland Cavaliers

First round

Milwaukee Bucks over Atlanta Hawks

Philadelphia 76ers over Indiana Pacers

Boston Celtics over Miami Heat

Brooklyn Nets over Toronto Raptors

Second round

Milwaukee Bucks over Brooklyn Nets

Boston Celtics over Philadelphia 76ers

Eastern Conference finals

Milwaukee Bucks over Boston Celtics

The Bucks have been the class of the Eastern Conference over the last two regular seasons. The lessons of playoff failures past plus upgrading to Jrue Holiday should make Milwaukee stronger in the postseason. With Giannis Antetokounmpo signing his super-max extension, the Bucks can focus on their championship pursuit without that cloud hanging over their heads.

The 2-6 teams – 76ers, Celtics, Raptors, Nets, Heat – are closely grouped. With incredibly talented Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving returning from injury and having never played together, Brooklyn has the highest ceiling ceiling and lowest floor. Better shooting around Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons plus Doc Rivers’ coaching should make Philadelphia more formidable. Miami earned its conference title last season, but some reasons for it might not be sustainable.

The Hawks and Wizards appear soundly in the play-in range (7-10). The Bulls and Hornets could also work their way in.