Milwaukee won the Eastern Conference on its way to winning the city its first NBA title in 50 years since last season. The Bucks have two-time NBA MVP Giannis Antetokuonmpo leading the way, but they aren’t the favorite to repeat as champions in the East. That distinction belongs to the Brooklyn Nets. Brooklyn probably has the most talented team in the league with Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving out to bring a title to the team.
The Nets are the envy of the league with their talent. Durant, Harden, and Irving are three of the best 12 players in the league, and multiple veterans have joined them with the hopes of winning a ring. LaMarcus Aldridge, Paul Millsap, and Blake Griffin will give this team a trio of veteran big men, and Patty Mills can come off the bench to provide some help at guard.
Of course, the big question is whether Irving will end up playing in most of Brooklyn’s games this season. Irving has resisted the COVID-19 vaccine, and he is currently unable to play in home games and select road games until he gets the jab. That could undermine this team’s chances, as Irving doesn’t seem likely to change his point of view.
Milwaukee has the highest floor of any team in the East barring injury. Antetokuonmpo is the best player in the league when he is locked in, and he proved that by winning the NBA Finals MVP last year. The Bucks have all their starters from last year back too as Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday are ready to provide a lot of ancillary support to the Greek Freak.
Joel Embiid is one of the most dominant big men in the league. His presence alone makes Philadelphia a contender, but the Ben Simmons situation looms large for the Sixers. Simmons has yet to report for training camp, as the game of chicken between him and the team escalates. It seems unlikely he will ever suit up for the team again, and the question now revolves around what the Sixers can get for him in a trade.
Atlanta was one of the most fun stories of last postseason. Trae Young became a household name by leading the Hawks past the Sixers in the conference semifinals, and they were able to challenge the Bucks until Young was injured. As with the other top teams from last year, they are running it back with essentially the same roster, so they have to be respected. This team has an enviable mix of size and perimeter shooting, and the Hawks go eight deep.
Longshot to Watch
Boston has the potential to make a lot of noise with Ime Udoka replacing Brad Stevens as head coach. Jayson Tatum is a popular dark horse pick to win the NBA MVP, and Jaylen Brown was having a great season before suffering a major injury just before the playoffs. Dennis Schroder could be one of the best signings of the offseason given he isn’t making a lot of money, and Josh Richardson should be an elite sixth man.