In anticipation of opening night in Cleveland, the Red’s Army staff will make their predictions for how the 17-18 season will transpire. Yesterday, we envisioned Celtics’ playing on all-star weekend. Today, we’ll look at the landscape of the Eastern Conference. All of us are predicting a Celtics vs. Cavs showdown in the Eastern Conference Finals, but outside of Cleveland, which team is the biggest threat to the Celtics in the East? I ruined what would have been staff consensus by picking a team that continues to flirt with a teardown, while the rest of the guys are looking down I-95 at a team built around a dynamic backcourt and a knack for wearing all black.
John Karalis — Washington Wizards
I’m not 100% sold on Toronto’s changes. They’ll still be good… I just don’t know that they’re the “biggest” threat in the East. I think Washington is still slightly better. Wildcard: how does Otto Porter play after getting his big contract. If last year’s performance was just “contract year” stuff, then Washington is screwed.
Mike Dynon — Washington Wizards
DeMar DeRozan has killed the Celtics, but if Boston’s new personnel can control him, the Raptors will be less of a threat. The Bucks will go as far as Giannis can take them — and he’s scary. But the Wizards retained their talented core and are still bitter about their playoff loss, which should fuel them this season.
Ben Mark — Toronto Raptors
I’m sorry– I just don’t buy that Washington has all of a sudden perennially arrived. I think John Wall is great, Beal is, too, but their bench is perilously thin. What happens if someone in the Starting 5 misses a bunch of time? Toronto is the unsexy pick here, but let’s assume seeding shakes out differently and the Cs have to match-up with the Raptors in round two. They’re good enough to go the distance with the Celtics, and they’re probably the safest bet outside of Boston and Cleveland to finish top four in the conference.
KJ Kourafas — Washington Wizards
John Wall. Sure, Jaylen looked competent defending him at times the in the playoffs, but this man’s determination, ability, and roster depth has never been at a higher level.
Liam Green — Washington Wizards
I would ordinarily say Toronto but Lowry is due for a slight regression simply due to age, and while DeRozan is still young, Smart, Hayward and Brown should be better equipped to guard him than Avery Bradley having to do so on his own. Baynes can take care of Ibaka and Valanciunas.
So, the Wizards: Their starters comprised one of the league’s best lineups last season, and Wall/Beal/Porter may still have depths to reveal. Even with ‘Kieff basically being what he is (and not much more) and Gortat on the verge of washedness, the WAS core is deadly. Having to slug it out with them will be exhausting.