Several star players have moved from the Eastern Conference to the Western Conference via free agency and trades since the end of the 2016-17 NBA season.
The East, which has been the weaker conference for most of this century, now is even further behind in both elite talent and depth when compared to the West.
It took just 41 wins to secure the eighth seed last season, and we might see a sub-.500 team — or two — earn a playoff berth from the East next season.
Here are our post-free agent frenzy NBA power rankings for the Eastern Conference. We’ll reveal our Western Conference rankings Wednesday.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavs, at least on paper, still are the beasts of the East, but LeBron James’ uncertain future could be a huge distraction. It certainly affected the 2009-10 Cavs, who won a conference-leading 61 games but lost in embarrassing fashion to the Celtics in the East semifinals before James took his talents to South Beach.
2. Boston Celtics
The additions of Gordon Hayward and 2017 No. 3 draft pick Jayson Tatum give the Celtics a much more talented and versatile offense. Their rebounding woes from last season still are a concern with the current roster, though.
3. Milwaukee Bucks
Rising superstar forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and a young, talented Bucks team should be a trendy pick for the most improved team. It wouldn’t be a surprise if this team reaches the 50-win mark for the first time since 2000-01.
4. Washington Wizards
Losing Bojan Bogdanovic in free agency hurts an already weak Washington bench, but any team that features a backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal will be tough to beat.
5. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors re-signed core players Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka in free agency, but they didn’t make any substantial improvements to a team that Cleveland swept in the conference semis in May.
6. Miami Heat
Justise Winslow coming back from injury, Dion Waiters re-signing and the addition of free-agent center Kelly Olynyk should help the Heat build off last season’s strong second half and get back into the playoffs.
7. Charlotte Hornets
Malik Monk was a tremendous addition through the draft. He and Kemba Walker should make for a difficult backcourt to defend.
8. Philadelphia 76ers
“The Process” has enough talent to make the playoffs in a weak conference, the question is will injuries keep Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz on the court together long enough to win 40-plus games.
9. Atlanta Hawks
Losing Paul Millsap for nothing in free agency hurts, but the Hawks still are well-coached and have a good enough roster to compete for a playoff spot in the East.
10. Indiana Pacers
Myles Turner, Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis will prevent the Pacers from being one of the worst teams in the league and thus failing to get a great draft pick. It’s one of many reasons why Indiana will lose the Paul George trade.
11. Detroit Pistons
Avery Bradley was a nice pickup via trade for the Pistons, but this team still doesn’t have a go-to star to win games in crunch time. Veteran center Andre Drummond is almost unplayable late in games because of his horrendous free-throw shooting, too.
12. Orlando Magic
Florida State forward Jonathan Isaac was a tremendous draft pick at No. 6 overall, but this young Magic team still is a few years away from competing for a playoff berth.
13. New York Knicks
The Knicks are a mess. They don’t have a general manager, and they just signed Tim Hardaway Jr. to a four-year, $71 million offer sheet. It’s going to be another bad season for one of the league’s longest-suffering fanbases.
14. Chicago Bulls
The Bulls didn’t get much in return from the Minnesota Timberwolves in the trade for superstar forward Jimmy Butler. They also don’t have a dependable point guard and Fred Hoiberg has yet to prove he’s a good pro coach. It’s rebuild time in Chicago.
15. Brooklyn Nets
Acquiring former No. 2 draft pick D’Angelo Russell in a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers was an excellent move by the Nets, but they still aren’t anywhere close to a quality team after finishing the 2016-17 campaign with the league’s worst record.
Thumbnail photo via Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports Images
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