The teams that make up the NBA’s Eastern conference are some of the most elite, and worst, teams in the league. Whether they’re competing for a championship or stuck in a rebuild, every team in the East has goals for this off-season. This article dives into what each team should try and accomplish heading into the 2019-2020 regular season.
Continue to grow with Trae Young and John Collins
With rookie point guard Trae Young showing promising talent and forward John Collins continuing to improve, the Hawks should look to build with these two young stars-in-the-making as their core. Young is putting up an impressive 17.2 PPG along with 7.7 APG and 3.3 RPG. For Collins, he went from averaging 10.5 PPG to 19.1 PPG. This leap in production bodes well for the forward. Atlanta is not considered to be a top destination for free agency so the team will be forced to slowly build through the draft to become competitive. Currently holding a 20-40 record, Atlanta’s chances of a high pick in the lottery are good. They should look to add another promising prospect and continue to grow around a young group.
Re-sign Kyrie Irving
The Celtics have all the pieces to be a championship team. Although it has clearly taken some time to put them all together, one has to think that a team that went to the Conference Finals last season without their arguable top two players (Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward) will likely see similar success this post-season. However, with Kyrie Irving becoming a free agent this off-season, Boston must re-sign him to a long-term contract if they hope to be competing for a championship in the years to come. Sure, the Celtics almost made the Finals without him last season. However, the team lacked a veteran closer who could help them win games on the road. Last post-season, the Celtics won only a single game on the road. Even with a possible trade for Anthony Davis (who is a free agent next off-season and could easily sign somewhere else) in the works, the best guarantee for long-lasting success is with Irving in a Celtics jersey.
Add a star through free agency
The Nets have made a much needed point this season to pending free agents, “look, we have a promising young core, we can win games.” As a team that was projected to be towards the bottom of the Eastern conference, the Nets have been much better than that, currently in playoff contention as the 6th seed. With the likes of D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Caris LeVert making strides to becoming stars in the NBA, the Nets should look for stars who want to be the face of a franchise and try to sign them this off-season. Namely Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, DeMarcus Cousins, and Tobias Harris. Although there are other names like Kyrie Irving, Kemba Walker, and Klay Thompson, the Nets already have promising talent at the two guard positions. Adding a star at either point guard or shooting guard could hurt the development of Russell, Dinwiddie, or LeVert.
Trade Kemba Walker and start over
The Hornets are not going anywhere. If they remain in playoff contention this year, which would frankly be hard to lose in the East, they will find themselves out early in the first round. Charlotte is not a top free agent destination, it is doubtful that the likes of Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, among others, are coming. It would have been the smarter move to trade their star point guard in Kemba Walker before the trade deadline. However, the Hornets are now in a position in which he could sign anywhere as an unrestricted free agent this coming off-season. However, Walker is seemingly devoted to the team, franchise, and city. With that being the case, a sign-and-trade is possible in which the Hornets could receive promising young talent and/or draft picks. It’s time to start over in Charlotte.
Trade Otto Porter Jr. and look to the draft
The Bulls are looking at a high pick in the coming NBA Draft. With a promising young core in Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine, and Kris Dunn, the Bulls have pieces to build with. However, with Otto Porter Jr. being paid over $100 million on his current contract, management should look to move him this off-season. It is hard to draw free agents to the team while having to pay Porter Jr. a salary he has yet to prove he deserves.
Trade Kevin Love
The Cavaliers are one of the worst teams in the NBA and there are no signs of that changing anytime soon. With Kevin Love putting up 17.8 PPG and 10.9 RPG, his trade value is the highest it probably will be for the remainder of his career. Despite being injured for almost this entire current season, when he has been on the court he has proven that he can be a valuable player for a team that is willing to pay him $21 million per year. By trading him, the Cavaliers can continue their rebuild and have plenty of cap space to work with.
Keep Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond together
Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond form one of the most dominant frontcourts in the NBA, ranked as the 12th best (based on net rating) in the league last season. Despite only being 12th, that was with half the season already gone. With an entire off-season and this current season to gel, Griffin and Drummond are even better together than they were last year. However, they are only the 7th seed, currently holding a 28-30 record. The poor record is largely due to the overall weak roster. The Pistons should look to keep the two All-Stars together, and find other ways, either through trades or the draft, to improve and give their starting frontcourt some help.
Somehow, some way, the Pacers are one of the top three teams in the East this year, despite losing their All-Star guard Victor Oladipo with a season-ending knee injury some 15 games ago. With Oladipo out, it is unlikely that the Pacers will find much success in the playoffs this season. With Oladipo returning, Myles Turner improving, and if the rest of the team’s core sticks together, the Pacers should simply look to reset and try and make it out of the East next season. Indiana is not a top free agent destination and the team is promised a low pick in the draft this year, with that being the case, it is unlikely that the team’s roster will look significantly different at the start of next season.
Simply put, the Heat don’t have the pieces to be competitive in the East and should tank till they find the young core they want to move forward with. The focus of this current season seemed to be saying farewell to future Hall-of-Famer Dwayne Wade rather than looking to compete for a playoff spot. The team should look to move players with value such as Hassan Whiteside, Gorgan Dragic, and Josh Richardson, and embrace a full-on rebuild. With Miami being a prominent free agent destination, the rebuild might not last as long as other teams have experienced in the past.
The Bucks have taken the league by storm this season, currently holding the best record in the NBA. With that being the case, the Bucks should simply look to reset next season by keeping their core together and take another shot at winning the Finals.
New York Knicks
Add star free agents
The Knicks have consistently been one of the worst teams in the league for half a decade. There seems to finally be a light at the end of the tunnel for the team as there is apparent interest from prominent pending free agents such as Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to become a member of the New York Knicks organization. According to reports, Kristaps Porzignis, the star forward who the Knicks traded to Dallas this season, was “not psyched” to play alongside Durant. If there is any truth to the report then there is a serious chance that Durant is planning on signing with the team.
Trade Nikola Vucevic (if possible)
The Magic’s center is entering free agency after putting up career numbers across the board this current season. Vucevic has averaged 20.6 PPG, 12.1 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.0 SPG, and 1.1 BPG. With these great numbers, it is likely that there will be several teams interested in Vucevic. Unfortunately for the Magic, Vucevic could sign with any team he wants since Orlando passed on trading him before this season’s trade deadline. The team could, however, do a sign-and-trade as seen in the past with All-Star point guard Chris Paul in order to acquire assets for the future.
Re-sign Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris
The 76ers went all-in with winning now, trading away young players and draft picks for established veterans Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris. There is a large risk since both Butler and Harris are entering free agency and could walk away from Philadelphia after only spending about half a season with the team. The team should try and persuade the two stars to stay in Philly as 76ers have the potential to be one of the top teams in the East for several years to come.
Re-sign Kawhi Leonard
The Raptors are obviously going to attempt to re-sign Kawhi Leonard, the 2014 NBA Finals MVP, and hope be one of the top teams in the East for the foreseeable future. The Raptors have struggled in the playoffs despite dominant regular seasons and hope that Leonard, a veteran with championship experience, can be the piece they need to put them over the hump.
The Wizards have struggled to do much of anything in the post-season in the John Wall era. Despite, for the past few years, considering themselves as the best team in the East, the Wizards have most likely missed their opportunity to be competing for a title. John Wall will not be playing until at least February 2020 due to a torn achilles. Simultaneously, Wall is being paid close around $40 million a year over the next four years. It is time for Washington to trade away their stars for younger players and draft picks. Bradley Beal, the team’s All-Star shooting guard, is likely an easy player to trade. John Wall on the other hand, with his injuries and contract, is almost impossible to trade. Regardless, the team should do what it can to start over.