Over just a few short months, the NBA has drastically changed. Rosters are totally different around the league, particularly at the top. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are now Los Angeles Clippers, Russell Westbrook is in Houston, Kemba Walker is a Celtic, and oh yeah, Al Horford is a Sixer.
Out of the four teams (Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Toronto Raptors) which made it to their respective 2019 Conference Finals, the Bucks are the lone relatively “safe bet” to make it as far this upcoming season. The 2020 NBA Playoffs is sure to be as entertaining as ever, featuring what truly is a wide-open league for the first time in over a decade.
Predicting the Wild, Wild West
This upcoming season, the cliché “the West is so much better than the East” has a legitimate basis. The designation of “Finals Contender” has already been applied to over 1/4 of the Conference for a reason. The former 2019 8th seed added not just a 2x Finals MVP, but a perennial All-NBA/DPOY caliber counterpart. The 54-win 2nd seed from last season legitimately got better by adding former Sixer, Jerami Grant, and they will also be able to implement the 2017 #2 HS recruit, Michael Porter Jr. into their rotation at some point down the line. Although the other LA team basically cleaned house to acquire just one player in Anthony Davis, his union with LeBron alone is quite a formidable task for any opponent. By adding Mike Conley and Bojan Bogdanovic, the Jazz completely bolstered their lineup. Whoever makes it out of the East will have their hands full to say the least.
Evaluating the Emergent East
The 2020 NBA Playoffs picture in the Eastern Conference appears to be a bit more top-heavy. The 2019 top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks did lose Malcolm Brogdon to the Pacers, but the additions of Kyle Korver and Robin Lopez will collectively help ease his absence. The aforementioned Indiana Pacers will regain All-Star Victor Oladipo to pair with his new teammates Malcolm Brogdon, T.J. Warren, Goga Bitadze, and beloved former 76er T.J. McConnell. Replacing Kyrie Irving with Kemba Walker was huge for the Boston Celtics, but signing Enes Kanter to replace of Al Horford was not as wise. Once Kevin Durant suits up for the Brooklyn Nets, that team will be dangerous, but this upcoming season will likely more or less be a one-man show headlined by Irving.
From a Sixers standpoint, the sky is the limit. Matchup-wise, the Sixers can definitely beat the lone 60-win team from 2019. The primary circumstances surrounding this year’s squad – legitimate time to build team chemistry and lack of any concrete, off-court distractions – have set the stage for much more success than just a 2nd round exit. Expectations and anticipation has never been higher, as they should be with this starting 5. If things go according to plan, the Sixers should have their way through the East.
The West is what should worry Sixers fans.
Featured Image: AP Photo/Chris Szagola