As it stands, the Cleveland Cavaliers are now the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. LeBron James and company were given the best odds to win the NBA championship next season. Aside from improving Cleveland, LeBron’s move back home may create a more competitive Eastern Conference. In recent years, the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers have dominated in the East while the rest of the conference remained relatively weak.
With LeBron and point guard Kyrie Irving leading the Cavaliers next season, Cleveland should be making an appearance in the postseason. Aside from those two, it is unclear what the final roster in Cleveland will look like. The Cavs are pursuing Minnesota’s Kevin Love via trade. If Love is added, Cleveland may run away with the East. If not, Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 overall pick in the most recent lottery, will have quite the learning experience playing alongside the best player in the league.
Miami’s biggest competition in the East during LeBron’s first two years with the team will also be vying for a top spot. The Chicago Bulls have retooled and want to show everyone what they can do at full strength. If Derrick Rose remains healthy, the Bulls will be dangerous. Pau Gasol adds a very talented and smart player to the lineup. The Bulls should once again challenge to be the best in the East.
James’ departure will not lead to the downfall of the Heat. Today, Dwyane Wade announced he would be re-signing with the Heat, so two of the Big Three will remain on the team. James’ exit allows Chris Bosh to increase his production and become more central to the organization’s success. Plus, Luol Deng joins Miami to take James’ position. The Heat will not only make the playoffs, but challenge for a top seed.
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Finally, we have the Indiana Pacers, the Heat’s rival the past two seasons. LeBron’s Heat faced the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals two years in a row. Paul George emerged as the leader of the Pacers, and Indiana seemed almost unbeatable when they were playing well. However, Indiana also revealed just how beatable they were after the Atlanta Hawks took the Pacers to seven games in the first round of the 2014 NBA playoffs. We will see if the Pacers can get back on track soon enough.
These four teams quite possibly could be the top four seeds in the Eastern Conference. However, other teams such as the Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors will be pushing for one of the top spots as well. Either way, expect a more evenly matched field in the East when the season begins.