NBA Standings Projections: Top 3 of The East
By: Joe Borek ( @jjborek26)
The NBA Season has gotten off to a rocking start. Even without their star Walker, the Celtics are still cruising. The Pacers have got off to a blazing hot start led by Oladipo and budding star Brogdon. Then the potentially deepest team in the East on paper in the Nets have gotten off to a more tampered start due to KD being out due to league protocols and Irving, who stepped away from the team. At the same time, the new-look Sixers gotten off to a 7-3 excellent start. The question is, who will prevail in the top three as the season winds down? Let us get into that now, and I will provide an explanation of who I think will finish top three in the East. Just like my West article, I will check back mid-season to see how the predictions went.
1. Boston Celtics
Led by one of the best if not the best coach in the league in Brad Stevens, the deep Boston Celtics are poised to lead the East yet again. They have already gotten off to a hot 7-3 start, even with covid protocols with Jaylen Brown, Semi Ojeleye, and Grant Williams. Marcus Smart has again shown to be a pain in the ass for the opposition, while veteran Jeff Teague has provided helpful depth off the bench. Then the Celtics scouted well and were able to add more depth in undrafted rookie Payton Pritchard. This kid is a very scrappy player who can cause problems on both ends. He has stepped up for the Celtics being able to provide 22.9 minutes a night in Walker’s absence. Pritchard is that high energy ball play all teams like to have. The difference is unlike guys like a high-energy TJ McConnell, Pritchard has an above-average shot so therefore can help space out the floor due to his shooting and playmaking ability. The Celtics have already shown good depth at guard, and that’s before Star Walker is back. Imagine what they can do when they insert Kemba Walker back into their lineup. Their guard play, combined with the development of undersized Theis and Ojeleye, will propel the Celtics to the top of the East, in my view. On top of that, imagine if Tacko Fall can start playing more consistently as he did against the Wizards.
2. Brooklyn Nets
This is one I am either going to live on or die on. I just feel this team is way too deep in order to not take flight and propel themselves into the top two by season’s end. Even if Kyrie Irving stays away from the team past one or two games, they should be fine. KD, once he comes back from protocols, which is slated for today, Sunday as I type this, will step up in his potential absence. If Irving comes right back, he and KD will jump back in and run the lineup as they did the first few games before KD’s covid protocols absence. This team has two of the league’s best shooters in Joe Harris and Landry Shamet, plus one of the league’s top developing Stars in Caris Lavert to go together with KD and Irving. Just like the Celtics, the Nets’ top-line guard play should help propel them into the number two spot. This is especially the case when they have a scrappy Jeff Green and Taurean Prince down low to go with Allen and Jordan at the center position. This team is full of tons of depth, and when they are back and fully healthy minus Dinwiddie, I believe they will start to show immense promise and take off.
3. Philadelphia 76ers
The new-look 76ers have come out guns blazing this season. They have gotten key contributions from youngsters to combine with their key vet contributions. One of those key youngsters is Kentucky rookie Tyrese Maxey who went off against Denver in a losing effort. Maxey’s playmaking ability, combined with his drive to score any way he can, making him in line to start very soon. Especially after going off and steeping up against Denver while all starters but Green were inactive due to covid protocols. This Sixers team, like the Nets, has filled out their depth nicely. Dwight Howard coming in has really solidified the Sixers backup center behind Embiid. While adding in guards, Green and Curry have solidified their shooting and guard depth. Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons now have arguable the best filled out team around them they ever have had. Shake Milton is becoming an excellent little player while Thybulle is a defensive wiz. This team seems to have answers to any pending problems via their depth players. That, to me, is the makings of a team that should finish top three.
So there you have it, my 2021 Top Three of the East. I hope you all enjoyed the read. I will check back mid-season to see how the projections went.