PREVIEWING THE NBA EASTERN CONFERENCE 2020-21
HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW THE EASTERN CONFERENCE?

PREVIEWING THE NBA EASTERN CONFERENCE 2020-21

In previewing the NBA Eastern Conference 2020-21 you instantly see it is a much more competitive arena than in previous years of late.

It sees the Orlando Magic in a fight to maintain the recent status as a playoff team. So we at Orlando Magic UK are taking a look at our conference rivals.

In this preview we will take a brief look at each team. 

THE NBA EASTERN CONFERENCE 2020-2021 – TIERS OF TEAMS

As it stands this is our take before the season begins on the NBA Eastern Conference 2020-21. It could quickly be changed by any future trades (we’ve all read the James Harden speculation). Equally we are assuming a healthy squad. 

TIER 1

Boston, Brooklyn, Miami, Milwaukee and Toronto

We expect these teams to comfortably make the postseason and see them battling for home court advantage. There are questions about each, most notably is will Brooklyn be as good as everyone says? 

TIER 2

Indiana and Philadelphia

Looking to this second tier and we believe both are going to be in the playoff equation. Either could push and challenge for home court advantage? 

TIER 3

Atlanta, Charlotte, Orlando, Washington and Chicago

Now to the grouping we placed the Magic into. Tier 3 could be a savage battle. Each of these teams will be seeking to push into the 6th position to avoid the play-in tournament. That new addition is for those teams ranked 7 through 10 at the season end. Plenty of questions around depth, consistency and chemistry are present for each of these teams. Given health and an answer to the previous question it is not unreasonable to see one of these teams rise up the rankings. 

TIER 4

Cleveland, Detroit and New York

Tier 4 are the teams perceived to be in a rebuild. There is no disrespect from us towards these three teams. As we always say there are no easy games in the NBA. Therefore don’t expect any free rides when facing them as they will certainly compete hard. 

We know not everyone will agree with our assessment. In all tiers there are clearly good arguments for movement of teams up or down. 

NBA EASTERN CONFERENCE 2020-21 – THE TEAMS

And so to look at each team, starting with their previous season records. We have also broken down the offseason ins and outs for the roster.

The projected starting line-ups used here are via ESPN at the time of writing. 

ATLANTA HAWKS

  • Season record 20-47, 14th in the Eastern Conference
  • 26th in NBA Offensive Rating
  • 27th in NBA Defensive Rating 
  • Hired Nate McMillan as assistant coach
  • Drafted Onyeka Okongwu (6th) and Skylar Mays (50th) (two-way contract)
  • Players in – Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo, Kris Dunn, Solomon Hill, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Tony Snell and Nathan Knight (two-way contract)
  • Players out – Jeff Teague, Dewayne Dedmon, Treveon Graham, Khyri Thomas and Vince Carter (retired). Renounced the rights to DeAndre’ Bembry, Skal Labissiere, Damian Jones and Charlie Brown Jr.
  • Projected starting lineup – Trae Young, Bogdan Bogdanovic, De’Andre Hunter, John Collins, Clint Capella. 
  • Notable backup players – Rajon Rondo, Kevin Huerter, Cam Reddish, Danilo Gallinari, Onyeka Okongwu, Kris Dunn, Tony Snell, Solomon Hill

Our Take – Last season the Hawks disappointed a lot of people and certainly underperformed. If the Hawks can blend the veterans to their young star core then Atlanta will be a much improved team on last season. They have shooting ability from every position but needed to add some D. Getting Nate McMillan in for that defensive focus is a brilliant move. 

BOSTON CELTICS

  • Season record 48-24, 3rd in the Eastern Conference
  • Eliminated in the NBA Eastern Conference Finals 2-4 by Miami Heat
  • 4th in NBA Offensive Rating 
  • 4th in NBA Defensive Rating
  • Drafted – Aaron Nesmith (14) and Payton Pritchard (26). Also drafted Yam Madar at the 47th pick. It has been reported that Madar will not feature in Boston but play for Hapoel Tel Aviv
  • Players in – Tristan Thompson, Jeff Teague
  • Player out – Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter, Vincent Poirier. Renounced the rights to Brad Wanamaker
  • Projected starting lineup – Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Daniel Theis
  • Notable backup players – Jeff Teague, Tristan Thompson, Sami Ojeleye, Aaron Nesmith

Our Take – We hate to say it but never bet against the Celtics! They are a team of grit, built with quality in all positions and are well coached. 

BROOKLYN NETS

  • Season record 35-37, 7th in the Eastern Conference
  • Eliminated NBA Eastern Conference First Round 0-4 by Toronto Raptors 
  • 22nd in NBA Offensive Rating 
  • 9th in NBA Defensive Rating
  • Hired Steve Nash as Head Coach. Joined by Mike D’Antoni and Ime Udoka as assistants. Hired Amar’e Stoudemire as player development assistant
  • Drafted – Reggie Perry (57th pick)
  • Players in – Landry Shamet, Jeff Green, Bruce Brown
  • Players out – Garrett Temple, Jamal Crawford, Justin Anderson, Lance Thomas, Michael Beasley, Wilson Chandler, Chris Chiozza, Donta Hall, Jeremiah Martin, Dzanan Musa, Saddiq Bey, Jaylen Hands and Jay Scrubb
  • Projected starting lineup – Kyrie Irving, Caris LeVert, Joe Harris, Kevin Durant, Jarrett Allan
  • Notable backup players – Spencer Dinwiddie, Bruce Brown, Landry Shamet, Jeff Green, Tauren Prince, DeAndre Jordan, Tyler Johnson, Timothy Luwawu-Cabarrot

Our Take – Last season saw Brooklyn grow under LeVert, Dinwiddie, Harris and Allen. We now get to see if Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving can push the Nets to being a contender? They certainly have the stars to go with their depth. 

CHARLOTTE HORNETS

  • Season record 23-42, 9th in the Eastern Conference
  • 30th in NBA Offensive Rating
  • 12th in NBA Defensive Rating
  • Drafted – LaMelo Ball (3), Vernon Carey (32), Nick Richards (42) and Grant Riller (52)
  • Players in – Gordon Hayward, Nate Darling (two-way)
  • Players out – Nic Batum, Dwayne Bacon, Willy Hernangómez, Kobi Simmons, Ray Spalding
  • Projected starting lineup – Devonte’ Graham, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, PJ Washington, Cody Zeller
  • Notable backup players – LaMelo Ball, Caleb Martin, Bismarck Biyombo, Miles Bridges, Malik Monk

Our Take – The Hornets have swung big to go with their high draft pick. Charlotte are going to be a team to watch out for having definitely improved in the off-season.

CHICAGO BULLS

  • Season record 22-43, 11th in the Eastern Conference
  • 27th in Offensive Efficiency
  • 12th in Defensive Efficiency 
  • Fired Head Coach Jim Boylen
  • Hired Head Coach Billy Donovan
  • Drafted – Patrick Williams (No. 4) and Marko Simonvić (No. 44)
  • Players in – Garrett Temple, Noah Vonleh, Zach Norvell and DeVon Dotson (two-way contract)
  • Players out – Kris Dunn, Shaquille Harrison, Adam Mokoka, Max Strus
  • Projected starting lineup – Coby White, Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr, Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr
  • Notable backup players – Tomas Satoransky, Denzel Valentine, Thaddeus Young, Garrett Temple, Patrick Williams 

Our Take – Their starting unit is solid. Injury free and with some improvement from their  bench unit then the Bulls will be in the mix for the postseason play in tournament.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

  • Season record 19-46, 15th in the Eastern Conference
  • 25th in NBA Offensive Rating
  • 29th in NBA Defensive Rating
  • Drafted – Isaac Okoro at No. 5
  • Players in – Signed JaVale McGee, Damyean Dotson, Thon Maker, Rayjon Tucker and Lamar Stevens (two-way contract)
  • Players out – Jordan Bell, Alfonzo McKinnie, Matt Mooney and Ante Zizic
  • Projected starting lineup – Darius Garland, Colin Sexton, Isaac Okoro, Kevin Love, Andre Drummond 
  • Notable backup players – Matthew Dellavedova, Larry Nance Jr, JaVale McGee, Cedi Osman, Thon Maker, Dante Exum

Our Take – The Cavs are not likely to trouble the postseason positions. They certainly have some nice pieces, will battle in games but expect them to be getting another high lottery pick.

DETROIT PISTONS

  • Season record 20-46, 13th in the Eastern Conference
  • 21st in NBA Offensive Rating
  • 22nd in NBA Defensive Rating
  • Drafted – Killian Hayes (7th), Isaiah Steward (16th), Saddiq Bey (19th), Saben Lee (38th) 
  • Players In – Jahlil Okafor, Josh Jackson, Mason Plumlee, Jerami Grant, Delon Wright, Wayne Ellington, Dzanan Musa, Rodney McGruder and Jaylen Hands
  • Players out – Langston Galloway, John Henson, Brandon Knight, Thon Maker, Jordan McRae, Derrick Walton Jr., Jordan Bone, Louis King, Luke Kennard, Bruce Brown, Christian Wood, Justin Patton, Tony Snell, Tony Bradley and Khyri Thomas
  • Projected starting lineup – Killian Hayes, Delon Wright, Jerami Grant, Blake Griffin, Mason Plumlee
  • Notable backup players – Derrick Rose, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Sekou Doumbouya,  Jahlil Okafor, Josh Jackson, Wayne Ellington

Our Take – Detroit made some baffling moves in the offseason. Whilst that is the case they also still have some talent available. Again they will play hard but it will likely be a long hard season for them.

INDIANA PACERS

  • Season record 45-28, 4th in Eastern Conference
  • Eliminated NBA Eastern Conference First Round 0-4 by Miami Heat.
  • 19th in NBA Offensive Rating
  • 6th in NBA Defensive Rating 
  • Fired Head Coach Nate McMillan. 
  • Hired Nate Bjorkgren as Head Coach
  • Drafted – Cassius Stanley at No. 54
  • Players out – TJ Leaf, Brian Bowen II, Alize Johnson, Naz Mitrou-Long
  • Players in – Jalen Lecque, Kelan Martin
  • Projected starting lineup – Malcolm Brogdon, Victor Oladipo, T.J. Warren, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner
  • Notable backup players – Aaron Holiday, Justin Holiday, Jeremy Lamb, Doug McDermott, Goga Bitadze, T.J. McConnell, Edmond Sumner, JaKarr Sampson

Our Take – Indiana are hard to position. Their squad remains that which we saw last season. They finished 4th in the regular season and were then swept again in the playoffs. We expect the Pacers to be outside the home court spots but another post season appearance awaits.

MIAMI HEAT

  • Season record 44-29, 5th in the Eastern Conference
  • Lost NBA Finals 2-4 versus LA Lakers
  • 7th in NBA Offensive Rating
  • 11th in NBA Defensive Rating
  • Drafted – Precious Achiuwa at No. 20
  • Players in – Avery Bradley, Maurice Harkless
  • Players out – Jae Crowder, Derrick Jones Jr., Kyle Alexander, Solomon Hill, Gabe Vincent 
  • Projected starting lineup – Goran Dragic, Duncan Robinson, Jimmy Butler, Meyers Leonard, Bam Adebayo
  • Notable backup players – Kendrick Nunn, Tyler Herro, Andre Iguodala, Maurice Harkless, Kelly Olynyk, Avery Bradley, Precious Achiuwa

Our Take – The Heat performed beyond expectations last season. Their bar is now set high again. We don’t expect the Heat to be anything other than a top four team having quality and depth in every position.

MILWAUKEE BUCKS

  • Season record 56-17, 1st in Eastern Conference
  • Eliminated in NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals 1-4 by Miami Heat
  • 8th in NBA Offensive Rating
  • 1st in NBA Defensive Rating 
  • Drafted – Jordan Nwora (45th), Sam Merrill (60th), 
  • Players in – Jrue Holiday, D.J. Augustin, Nik Stauskas, Bobby Portis, Torrey Craig
  • Players out – Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, Wesley Matthews, Ersan Ilyasova, Robin Lopez, Kyle Korver, Marvin Williams, Sterling Brown, Frank Mason and Cameron Reynolds
  • Projected starting lineup – Jrue Holiday, Donte DiVincenzo, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez
  • Notable backup players – D.J. Augustin, Bryan Forbes, Pat Connaughton, Bobby Portis, Nik Stauskas

Our Take – With Giannis committed and adding Jrue Holiday the Bucks are definitely in a win now moment. Home court advantage is likely but beyond that the Bucks have something to prove.

NEW YORK KNICKS

  • Season record 21-45, 12th in the Eastern Conference
  • 28th in NBA Offensive Rating
  • 23rd in NBA Defensive Rating
  • Drafted – Obi Toppin (8th) and Immanuel Quickley (25th)
  • Players in – Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel, Austin Rivers, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Omari Spellman and Theo Pinson (two-way)
  • Players out – Bobby Portis, Maurice Harkless, Taj Gibson, Wayne Ellington, Kadeem Allen, Ed Davis, Damyean Dotson, Jared Harper, and Kenny Wooten.
  • Projected starting lineup – Elfrid Payton, RJ Barrett, Obi Toppin, Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson
  • Notable backup players – Frank Ntilikina, Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel, Austin Rivers, Reggie Bullock, Omari Spellman, Kevin Knox, Dennis Smith Jr

Our Take – Despite a change in some personnel and a good looking draft pick we feel a repeat of last season awaits the Knicks. 

 ORLANDO MAGIC

  • Season record 33-40, 8th in the Eastern Conference
  • Eliminated NBA Eastern Conference First Round 1-4 by Milwaukee Bucks
  • 23rd in Offensive Rating
  • 10th in Defensive Rating
  • Drafted – Cole Anthony (15th)
  • Players in – Chuma Okeke, Dwayne Bacon, Karim Mané (two-way), Jordan Bone (two-way). Also Devin Cannady, Robert Franks and Jon Teske to an Exhibit 10 contract for training camp. 
  • Players out – D.J. Augustin, Wes Iwundu, Melvin Frazier Jr., BJ Johnson and Vic Law
  • Projected starting lineup – Markelle Fultz, Evan Fournier, James Ennis, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic
  • Notable backup players – Cole Anthony, Terence Ross, Chuma Okeke, Mo Bamba, Michael Carter-Williams, Khem Birch, Al-Farouq Aminu, Khem Birch, Gary Clark

Our Take – Injury free then the Magic can compete, possibly pushing as high as 6th. The most likely scenario sees us fighting in the 7 through 10 battle and being part of the play-in tournament.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

  • Season record 43-30, 6th in Eastern Conference
  • EliminatedNBA Eastern Conference First Round 0-4 by Boston Celtics
  • 13th in NBA Offensive Rating
  • 8th in NBA Defensive Rating
  • Fired Head Coach Brett Brown
  • Hired Doc Rivers as Head Coach, joined by assistant coaches Dave Joerger, Dan Burke and Sam Cassell
  • Drafted – Tyrese Maxey (21st), Isaiah Joe (49th) and Paul Reed (58th) (two-way)
  • Players in – Danny Green, Seth Curry, Dwight Howard, Justin Anderson, Terrance Ferguson, Tony Bradley, Derrick Walton Jr and Dakota Mathias (two-way)
  • Players out – Al Horford, Josh Richardson, Alec Burks, Raul Neto, Kyle O’Quinn, Zhaire Smith, Glenn Robinson III, Vasilije Micic, Norvel Pelle and Marial Shayok
  • Projected starting lineup – Ben Simmons, Danny Green, Matisse Thybulle, Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid 
  • Notable backup players – Seth Curry, Dwight Howard, Shake Milton, Mike Scott, Furkan Korkmaz

Our Take – The big question is whether or not Philly have a better balance this term? Doc Rivers will motivate the team, which has undoubted talent. Moving on from Al Horford was a strong plus for Embiid. Danny Green and Seth Curry bring back some 3 point shooting. The 76ers will be in the playoffs but a first round elimination again would be unacceptable to the franchise management and fans.

TORONTO RAPTORS

  • Season record 52-19, 2nd in Eastern Conference
  • EliminatedNBA Eastern Conference Semifinals 3-4 by Boston Celtics
  • 14th in NBA Offensive Rating
  • 2nd in NBA Defensive Rating
  • Drafted – Malachi Flynn (29) and Jalen Harris (59)
  • Players in – Aron Baynes, DeAndre’ Bembry, Alex Len and Henry Ellenson 
  • Players out – Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Malcolm Miller and Dewan Hernandez
  • Projected starting lineup – Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam, Aron Baynes
  • Notable backup players – Malachi Flynn, Norman Powell, DeAndre’ Bembry, Alex Len, Chris Boucher, Patrick McCaw

Our Take – As with Boston do not bet against the Raptors. They are now a proven team, well coached and have a starting unit that can compete with the best.

WASHINGTON WIZARDS

  • Season record 25-47, 10th in the Eastern Conference
  • 15th in NBA Offensive Rating
  • 30th in NBA Defensive Rating
  • Drafted – Deni Avdija (9th) and Cassius Winston (53rd)
  • Players in – Russell Westbrook, Robin Lopez, Raul Neto, Anthony Gill and Cassius Winston (two-way)
  • Players out – John Wall, Jerian Grant, Ian Mahinmi, Shabazz Napier, Gary Payton II, Jarrod Uthoff, Johnathan Williams, Vit Krejci and Admiral Schofield
  • Projected starting lineup – Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal, Davis Bertans, Rui Hachimura, Thomas Bryant
  • Notable backup players – Ish Smith, Robin Lopez, Raul Neto, Deni Avdija

Our Take – The Wizards definitely got better. They have stars, ability and improved depth. They will definitely push themselves into the playoff picture. Whether that is via the play-in tournament or higher depends in part on how Scott Brooks can develop the Westbrook and Beal partnership.

PENNY FOR YOUR THOUGHTS

Across our recent episodes of Penny For Your Thoughts we have spoken in some detail about this season’s Magic squad. In addition we’ve took a look in some part at the NBA Eastern Conference 2020-21 and a whole host more!

All episodes of the podcast are available on the following platforms:

Anchor: https://anchor.fm/orlandomagicuk
Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/penny-for-your-thoughts/id1539159864
Breaker: https://www.breaker.audio/penny-for-your-thoughts-3
Google Podcasts: https://podcasts.google.com/feed/aHR0cHM6Ly9hbmNob3IuZm0vcy8zMjJhNGJiYy9wb2RjYXN0L3Jzcw==
Pocket Casts: https://pca.st/yj2cmpgs
RadioPublic: https://radiopublic.com/penny-for-your-thoughts-GmqjLa
Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/show/1LUayj9hfmnNkI79QQdzyS
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCl72EQRVc39Ozngxkz3vYrQ

Please subscribe and set your notifications for alerts when new episodes are released. We will be talking about those debuts and the return of Magic basketball when we record the next episode.

WILL THE NBA EASTERN CONFERENCE 2020-21 BE BETTER?

There have been criticisms in recent years but the NBA Eastern Conference 2020-21 has definitely seen growth amongst many teams. That growth has led to competition. Expect this season to be an exciting one, but as always…

LET’S GO MAGIC!