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NBA – Durant’s Nets untouchable, Bucks in the shadows and Knicks back: Our ranking of franchises in the East

1. Brooklyn Nets

The Nets came within a shoe size of Kevin Durant to win the title. The famous three-point buzzer basket – well, at two, he had bitten on the line – during the epic series against the Bucks. And to think that Brooklyn was then playing without Kyrie Irving and without James Harden or LaMarcus Aldridge… The New York armada is leaving in full. And barring a physical glitch, it’s clearly the team to beat in the NBA this season.

The question : Will Kyrie Irving finally agree to be vaccinated and play this season? The worst part is that the Nets don’t even necessarily need him. The Durant-Harden tandem should be enough…well, if their bodies don’t let go.

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Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden

Credit: Getty Images

2. Milwaukee Bucks

The champions return to battle. And by dint of only hearing about the Nets or the Lakers, we almost forget that the favorites are first and foremost the Bucks! They have found the recipe for success and their team remains impressive. Giannis Antetokounmpo has steadily improved since joining the NBA and his shooting mechanics have never been so smooth and clean. Be careful not to underestimate Milwaukee.

The question : What consequence with the loss of PJ Tucker? He was still the stopper capable of slowing down Kevin Durant on a few possessions last year. A true “watchdog” who will be missed by the Bucks.

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Credit: AFP

3.Miami Heat

Finalist in 2020, exhausted in 2021, the Heat want to come back strong in 2022. And for that, Pat Riley and his assistants went all out by recruiting Kyle Lowry and PJ Tucker. Real warriors to complete a solid team led by Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo. Miami is ready for a new trench warfare.

The question : Do the Heat have a bench strong enough to level with the Nets or the Bucks? The workforce does not seem as deep, even if Tyler Herro were to turn a corner…

4.Philadelphia Sixers

Another season and another disappointment for the Sixers, taken out by the Hawks in the second round of the playoffs after finishing in the lead in the East. Joel Embiid and his teammates will try to leave with the same group…well, for now. Because Ben Simmons has finally decided to return to training. But he still wants to leave. A delicate situation that risks unbalancing the team in one way or another.

The question : Will Ben Simmons play for the Sixers again? How long before it’s transferred? And again, will the leaders only find an offer that suits them?

Ben Simmons in the playoffs in 2021.

Credit: Getty Images

5.Boston Celtics

A lot of change in Boston with the departure of Danny Ainge, his replacement by Brad Stevens and the appointment of Ime Udoka on the bench. There is a new balance to be found. But the Celtics are a little less expected and it can do them good. Anyway, everything will depend on Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, the two stars of the workforce.

The question : Can the Stevens-Udoka ticket breathe new life into this team?

6. Atlanta Hawks

Last year’s surprise. The Hawks wanted to find the playoffs, they even went to the Conference finals! Leaving in particular the Sixers. A superb performance and great promise for this young team led by the whimsical Trae Young. But we saw it recently with the Celtics: going far with a group of the future is not necessarily synonymous with great success in the future.

The question : Which young player will emerge to assert himself as Young’s luxury lieutenant? DeAndre Hunter, Kevin Huerter, Onyeka Okongwu and Cameron Reddish all show promise but it will take one above the pack to confirm in 2022.

7. New York Knicks

The Knicks are back! Carried by the arrival of Tom Thibodeau on the bench and by the evolution of Julius Randle, the New Yorkers returned to the playoffs last season. And they want to capitalize on this dynamic by recruiting Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier in particular. The set is really interesting and it promises some beautiful evenings at Madison Square Garden.

The question : Can the Knicks really aim for anything other than a first round of the playoffs? It probably still lacks a super talent to take the franchise higher.

Evan Fournier during his official presentation as the new Knicks player, at Madison Square Garden, in August 2021.

Credit: Getty Images

8.Chicago Bulls

A franchise full of ambition. The new leaders, landed last year, have pulled out all the stops to put the Bulls back on the NBA map. With the recruitment of Nikola Vucevic, then DeMar DeRozan and Lonzo Ball. But also Alex Caruso. The bulls have weapons available, it remains to find out how to use them.

The question : Can Vucevic, DeRozan, Ball and Zach LaVine really play together? The talent is there, the complementarity remains to be demonstrated.

9. Indiana Pacers

Change of atmosphere in Indianapolis. Coach Nate Bjorkgren was sacked after a short season on the bench. A year during which he alienated all the players with his methods. Rick Carlisle, one of the most highly rated coaches in the league, returns to the fold to restore order.

The question : Don’t the Pacers have an interest in bringing in Ben Simmons by selling Malcolm Brogdon or Caris LeVert? The Aussie would be perfect alongside Domantas Sabonis and Brogdon/LeVert.

10. Toronto Raptors

A page has turned to the Raptors. Kyle Lowry, the most iconic player in franchise history, is gone. But that does not mean that the 2019 champions no longer have any ambition. They prepare the future with OG Anunoby and Scottie Barnes (fourth pick of the draft) while wanting to interfere in the top 8 in the East.

The question : Will Pascal Siakam regain his All-Star status? He would have to assume his status as the first option for Toronto to have a real chance of playing the playoffs.

11. Cleveland Cavaliers

Time is getting long for the Cavaliers and their supporters. In transition since the departure of LeBron James in 2018, the Ohio franchise slowly wants to start talking about the playoffs again. Or at least “play in”. Tenth place is therefore the stated objective for a young team which is counting on the progress of Darius Garland, Collin Sexton and another Jarrett Allen to get closer to 50% of victories.

The question : Can Sexton and Garland really play together? With the announced explosion of the second named, the first could be sent elsewhere during the season. Its leaders were even already exploring avenues this summer.

Ricky Rubio

Credit: Getty Images

12.Washington Wizards

Russell Westbrook is gone but it’s not necessarily bad news for the Wizards, even if the former MVP had been one of the major players in the very good second half of the franchise season. Spencer Dinwiddie arrives to revive his career and the rest of the team is rather average.

The question : Bradley Beal is still there but for how long?

13. Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets were flirting with fourth place in the Eastern Conference before injuries to Gordon Hayward and LaMelo Ball last year. They had finally missed the playoffs. The season of confirmation promises to be even more difficult for this certainly talented but really very young team.

The question : Is Gordon Hayward still a star in this league?

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14. Detroit Pistons

Drafted in November 2020, Killian Hayes is the oldest player in the Pistons squad. That says a lot about the major cleaning carried out by the leaders in recent months. With, there too, a very young group which will first have the mission of progressing without really worrying about the results.

The question : Will Cade Cunningham confirm all the hopes placed in him? The first draft pick is highly anticipated in Michigan.

15. Orlando Magic

This time, that’s it, the Magic has decided to leave the soft underbelly of the classification to rebuild its team from scratch. A project started in the middle of the previous season with the transfers of Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier. Make way for young people, therefore, with some interesting talents to follow like Jalen Suggs (fifth choice of the draft), Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony, Mo Bamba or even Jonathan Isaac.

The question : Which young leader will win between Suggs, Fultz and Anthony? Even if they can all play as well position one as position two, it still creates a small traffic jam on the position.

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