The 2017-18 NBA season arrives Tuesday and with it speculation that a team other than the Cleveland Cavaliers could make it out of the Eastern Conference.
In an offseason littered with bold moves, the Boston Celtics executed the most shocking of them all in an attempt to unseat the Cavs. Boston's biggest addition came from Cleveland, scooping up Kyrie Irving after the beleaguered point guard demanded a trade. The Celtics lost Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder in the process.
Beyond the Cavs and Celtics, teams such as the Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks will be eyeing playoff glory with improved rosters. All that said, here is your 2017 NBA Eastern Conference preview.
Boston Celtics — Somehow, in an offseason that saw Chris Paul, Paul George and Carmelo Anthony move to Western Conference teams, the Celtics pulled off one of the most shocking trades of the decade. Irving is a superstar ready to blossom out of James' shadow. His presence should give the Celtics a legitimate chance of reaching the NBA Finals. Boston also went out and added Gordon Hayward to give Irving some help on the wing. Sending Avery Bradley — the team's best perimeter defender — to the Pistons for inconsistent power forward Marcus Morris didn't make a ton of sense, but Morris should start alongside Al Horford in the paint.
Charlotte Hornets — Acquiring Dwight Howard may have been controversial, but he brings instant muscle to the paint. Howard is one of the best area rebounders in the NBA. His offense never really developed away from the basket, but the Hornets have plenty of stretch 4s they can play alongside him. Drafting Kentucky's Malik Monk in the first round provided the Hornets with another elite shooter who also can run the point. This team should be deeper and more physical than last season.
Philadelphia 76ers — After years of losing seasons, Philadelphia finally appear ready to make a playoff push. Ben Simmons has returned after missing his entire rookie season, Joel Embiid showed promise as a dominant center before ending last season with yet another injury, and the 76ers selected Markelle Fultz with the top pick in this year's draft. Though all three carry significant injury risk, they also have the potential to lift this franchise out of the abyss. Watch out for power forward Dario Saric.
Chicago Bulls — Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo are gone. In their place, Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine and Bobby Portis will be asked to win games. The Bulls selected seven-footer Lauri Markkanen in the first round and still have Denzel Valentine, a lottery pick in 2016, but this roster is devoid of proven talent.
New York Knicks — New York finally dealt Carmelo Anthony, sending him to Oklahoma City to team with Russell Westbrook and Paul George. The Knicks weren't going to make the playoffs anyway, but now they face an uphill climb to avoid the Eastern Conference cellar. French rookie Frank Ntilikina may start at point guard, proving this team is geared for the future.
Kevin Love — No longer the third wheel in Cleveland's high-powered offense, Love will be integral to the Cavs' ability to reach a fourth straight NBA Finals. Likely moving to center, he will have the flexibility to move around in the paint and pop out for three-point attempts. Love's ability to knock down open jumpers should alleviate pressure on James. It also will space the floor for Thomas to become a true triple-threat option running the offense.
Jonathan Isaac, Orlando Magic — Isaac has flown under the radar since becoming the number six overall pick in this year's NBA Draft, but the 6ft10 former Florida State star can play above the rim or stretch the floor with a solid shooting touch. Though still raw, Isaac has impressed enough to garner major minutes as a rookie. The Magic may have found a steal if he's able to refine his ball-handling enough to further create his own shots.
The Pistons win a playoff series. The nucleus of Reggie Jackson, Andre Drummond and Tobias Harris should improve this season. Jackson fought through injuries early last year, and Drummond was taken out of games late due to poor defense and free-throw shooting. They should be closer to their 2015-16 form this season.
Adding Bradley and Luke Kennard to the wings opens more space for coach Stan Van Gundy's pick-and-roll offense. Expect Detroit to earn a number six seed and knock off the number three-seeded Raptors or Wizards to reach the Eastern Conference semi-finals.
Cavaliers — Cleveland remains the favorite until proved otherwise. The loss of Irving will sting, but Thomas is a capable fill-in. The Cavs' offseason moves left them older than last year but also deeper. Though Wade and Derrick Rose are past their primes, they can provide solid production off the bench. Crowder, an underrated piece in the Irving trade, can knock down three-pointers and guard an opposing team's top wing threat.
The Celtics worked hard this offseason to try and usurp the Cavs. Boston are set up better in the long run with Irving, Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown on the roster, but Cleveland will earn the number one seed and defeat Boston in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
|No Tottenham timeline for Lloris, Vorm returns|
|Woods ready for ´awesome environment´ on Ryder Cup opening hole|
|Tony Bellew determined to prove doubters wrong against Oleksandr Usyk|
|Tuchel explains why he likes Neymar at number 10|
|Manchester United smash revenue record but profits down|
|Furyk downplays Ryder Cup pairings talk, says Tuesday is about individuals|
|Rejuvenated Tiger out to improve poor Ryder Cup record|
|Saunders fined £100,000 for ´sickening´ online video|
|Hazard can reach his full potential with Sarri´s Chelsea - Zola|
|Ryder Cup heading back in Europe´s direction, says Niall Horan|
|Wow! Klopp hails Sarri´s Chelsea transformation|
|Giovinazzi to partner Raikkonen at Sauber in 2019|
|Bjorn backs ´phenomenal´ Rahm to continue trend of Spanish success|
|Durant in no rush to decide Warriors future|
|Rossi to face anti-doping hearing|
|Mignolet to return for Liverpool against Chelsea|
|Premier League ´interesting´ for Germany boss Low|
|Wilder wins Twitter vote to be Joshua´s next opponent|
|BREAKING NEWS: Isco an El Derbi doubt due to appendicitis|
|Juventus won´t rest Ronaldo ahead of Napoli clash|
|Slater cleared to play in NRL Grand Final|
|Top seed Begu sent packing in Tashkent|
|This isn´t my last hurrah in Ryder Cup, insists Poulter|
|Barba back in NRL with North Queensland Cowboys|
|Arsenal wait on Mkhitaryan and Sokratis|
|All Blacks wary of Pumas pack ahead of Buenos Aires Test|
|Ryder Cup has special place in Pep Guardiola´s heart, says Fleetwood|
|Mbappe ready to take over from Messi and Ronaldo, says Trezeguet|
|Molinari: Ryder Cup pressure far outweighs any major|
|Koepka heads PGA Tour´s Player of the Year nominations|
|Lampard: Mourinho still a great manager|
|United States and Europe reveal Ryder Cup practice groupings|
|Bulldogs´ fine for ´Mad Monday´ antics halved|
|Bennett to leave Broncos after 2019 NRL campaign|
|American League postseason picture becomes clear|
|Steelers edge Buccaneers for first win|
|Gatland wants Webb available for World Cup|
|Modric: Ronaldo, Messi out of this world but my season deserved recognition|
|Love says Cavs ´will surprise a lot of people´|
|George believes Thunder can compete for championship this season|
|Messi is the greatest ever – Eto´o|
|Messi to miss Argentina´s upcoming friendlies|
|Dolphins say Hayes tore ACL attempting to avoid roughing-the-passer penalty|
|Modric deserved FIFA Best award – Ramos|
|Thibodeau open to potential Butler trade|
|Modric wanted Ronaldo, Messi at awards ceremony|
|Brewers´ Yelich active after elbow hit|
|Anthony on coming off Rockets´ bench: Whatever I have to do to help this team win|
|Raiders coach Gruden says Mack trade was hard on players|
|Bale lauds ´unbelievable´ Modric after FIFA Best triumph|
|Ronaldo, Messi lacked respect with FIFA Best awards snub - Capello|
|New Zealand the benchmark but England can win World Cup - Mitchell|
|FIFA Best Award a dream come true for Modric|
|Lakers a long way from Warriors, warns LeBron|
|Milner pokes fun at Salah´s Puskas Award win|
|Josh Rosen to replace Sam Bradford as Cardinals starting quarterback|
|Kaymer: Home-course advantage crucial to Europe hopes|
|Marta and Pedros win FIFA Best awards|
|I want to be in Toronto - Kawhi Leonard focused on Raptors, not future|
|Messi and Ronaldo lead FIFPro World XI as Salah and Neymar miss out|
|Knicks´ Kristaps Porzingis ´itchy´ to return but won´t commit to 2018-19 season|
|Modric beats Ronaldo and Salah to FIFA Best prize|
|49ers confirm ACL tear for QB Garoppolo|
|Salah beats Bale and Ronaldo to Puskas Award|
|Deschamps wins FIFA Best Men´s Coach award|
|Law to leave Windies for Middlesex role|
|Sunderland terminate Ndong´s contract|
|Spalletti warns rejuvenated Inter against complacency|
|Ryder Cup 2018: Figo in town as USA arrive in style|
|Browns name Baker Mayfield starting QB|