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Who will make the playoffs? Who will finish first?
Finishing out our staff roundtable series, we try to predict the end of season standings in the Eastern Conference.
Jesse Cinquini
My gut, which maybe I’m confusing for my heart, is telling me the Celtics will end up as the only squad in the East with 60-plus wins. Surprisingly, the hardest part of this order was figuring out how to arrange the bottom five teams. Each has the talent — albeit young, inexperienced talent — to contend for a play-in spot.
Jeff Pratt
Just based on their landing spot alone, my hottest take might be the Heat finishing sixth. I don’t expect this team to be nearly as formidable as they’ve been in years past. While almost every Eastern Conference contender made significant upgrades, Miami elected to run it back. I don’t think that’s going to work. One hill I’m ready to die on is the Cavs jumping into the top-4. This is a hungry young team with a great coach who just added one of the 25 best players in the league. Cleveland may not make a lot of noise in the playoffs, but they’re going to be a strong regular season team.

My hot takes: Knicks over Cavs, Magic in the play-in, Raptors over Heat, and Bulls being bad. I think Philly is the hungriest team in the east, and I considered moving Brooklyn to 3 because of Milwaukee’s aging core, but I can’t quite bet against Giannis. Cleveland is overrated, New York is underrated, Chicago will decide to tank amidst a slew of injuries, and Orlando’s young talent will surprise the league and reach the play-in. I imagine some of you will ridicule me in the comments. Please do. And don’t be surprised if after the season I message you privately and brag about my correct takes. I’ll do it. Don’t underestimate my pettiness. (And if none of them are right, I’ll descend into silent shameful oblivion)

Yeah, I made Miami, last year’s Eastern Conference finalist, a play-in team. I think we’re going to see a bunch of young, “play hard” teams gunning for those older squads. Toronto, Atlanta, Cleveland, and Chicago will push the Heat down the standings, but they’ll be that dangerous veteran squad lurking in that 1-8/2-7 first round matchup.

I’m legit torn on the top spot. It could go to any of the top 3 teams on my list and you could make a case for the Nets (who I could also make a case for missing the playoffs). For the moment I trust the Bucks the most despite my heart saying the Celtics could take that from them. After that tier of teams there’s a glut of teams that are competing for the play-in and lower half of the playoffs. Of that group, I think I’m higher on the Raptors than most. They just have a very solid core surrounding emerging star Scottie Barnes. I wanted to put the Pistons and Magic higher but they both may be another year away.
Ok your turn! Rank the East for us in the comments below.
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