Despite the fact the 2017-18 NBA season is just shy of three weeks old, who doesn’t love to get ahead of themselves after the opening few games of the season?

From the Orlando Magic’s electric 6-3 start which sees them in a fierce battle for the top spot of the Eastern Conference, to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ tumultuous four-game losing streak, this season has had some surprises.

But just who will end up where? The Eastern Conference got considerably weaker this off-season, with the gulf in talent and class between the perpetually ‘top-five’ teams and the chasers fairly noticeable on paper. A select few members of the team at HoopsNation.com gave their expert opinions.

Jacob Hirsohn

  1. Toronto
  2. Washington
  3. Milwaukee
  4. Cleveland
  5. Boston
  6. Charlotte
  7. Miami
  8. Orlando

Just nine games in, and the Eastern Conference is already in complete disarray. Gordon Hayward’s injury stunned the Boston Celtics, the Cavs can’t beat the Brooklyn Nets, and Giannis Antetokounmpo looks like a freight train whose first and only stop is the MVP. This leaves a ripe opportunity for the Toronto Raptors – one of the most consistently dominant regular season teams in the league – to snag the one seed. The Washington Wizards and the Milwaukee Bucks have shown they are ready to compete out of the gate, which will give them a slight edge over last year’s floundering Conference finalists. The bottom half of the Conference is a nightmare, but the Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat and Orlando Magic seem to have the edge over the Detroit Pistons and the young Philadelphia 76ers.

James Cragg

  1. Toronto
  2. Boston
  3. Cleveland
  4. Milwaukee
  5. Washington
  6. Charlotte
  7. Orlando
  8. Indiana

With the Cavaliers’ demise set to continue for the foreseeable future, in part with Dwyane Wade’s lack of effort on defense and Derrick Rose’s inability to stay healthy, this will allow Toronto to swoop in an take the one seed, and Boston taking the two. While Milwaukee’s offense can be somewhat predictable at times, teams are yet to conjure up a successful plan to control Antetokounmpo, with Washington’s disastrous inconsistency set to restrict them to fifth. The last three playoff spots are difficult to call, but Charlotte have shown they can be competitive even without Nic Batum, so once he’s back they will reach a higher gear. Orlando’s run at the top won’t last much longer, but their bench will remain resolute and make sure they, along with the Indiana Pacers, clinch a playoff berth.

River Foster

  1. Cleveland
  2. Milwaukee
  3. Toronto
  4. Washington
  5. Boston
  6. Miami
  7. Philadelphia
  8. Orlando

The Bucks and Raptors have both looked really good to open up the season, I believe the latter will continue to play well throughput the regular season as they tend to do, before falling off in the playoffs. The Bucks, upon Jabari Parker’s return, will go on a season-ending run, snatching the second seed in the process. Boston and the Wizards will likely struggle with injuries and due to their insufficient depth, may fall a bit off the pace as a result.

Tripp Walcher

  1. Cleveland
  2. Boston
  3. Washington
  4. Milwaukee
  5. Toronto
  6. Charlotte
  7. Miami
  8. Detroit

D’Angelo Barksdale said it best in the first season of The Wire: “The King stay the King.” LeBron James will remind the NBA that he is still the most valuable player in professional basketball–regardless of whether or not he actually wins the MVP award–by nearly averaging a triple double en route to reclaiming homecourt advantage for the Cavaliers through the Eastern playoffs. Kyrie Irving, John Wall, and Antetokounmpo will lead their respective teams to respectable seasons, and give themselves a chance to break LeBron’s streak of seven consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.  The addition of Dwight Howard has given Charlotte an edge on defense.  Stan Van Gundy’s Pistons will again underwhelm their way through the season and sneak in as the 8 seed.  I don’t have faith that the start for the Magic is sustainable, and while I do believe that Victor Oladipo could have an All-Star caliber season, I still don’t see the Pacers cracking the top 8 in the East.

Chris Maitland

  1. Cleveland
  2. Boston
  3. Milwaukee
  4. Washington
  5. Toronto
  6. Miami
  7. Detroit
  8. Charlotte

Between Hayward’s gruesome leg injury five minutes into his first game as a member of the Celtics, a pair of perennial bottom-feeders (Magic, Nets) notching impressive wins over the Cavs and the 76ers failure to enter the “Results” stage of “The Process”, the Eastern Conference has experienced some serious shock and awe during the first eight days of the 2017-18 season. However, once this current wave of chaos settles down, I expect the squads with established veteran cores (Cavs, Wizards, Raptors, Heat), top-tier young talent (Celtics, Bucks) and a couple of below-average wild cards (Pistons, Hornets) to solidify themselves as the top teams in this middling conference.

Marty Tallman 

  1. Cleveland                                                                                                                                                             
  2. Milwaukee                                                                                                                                                               
  3. Washington                                                                                                                                                              
  4. Boston                                                                                                                                                                 
  5. Toronto                                                                                                                                                            
  6. Detroit                                                                                                                                                                 
  7. Charlotte                                                                                                                                                             
  8. Miami

With so many new faces in Cleveland, it may take a while, but they are the most talented team by far in the East. Antetokounmpo has cemented himself as a top three player in the league and he is ready to carry the Bucks into a top seed. Wall and Bradley Beal are the best backcourt in the East but without a capable scoring bench the Wizards will drop to the three seed. The Celtics’ season was transformed when they lost Hayward on opening night, now Coach Brad Stevens will have to jumble lineups of very talented but extremely young players. Can Kyrie Irving carry a team to the top seed as “the man”?

The combination of DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and Serge Ibaka will allow the Raptors to get in the playoffs comfortably. Detroit look much improved adding Avery Bradley, with surrounding players evolving at an alarming rate.

Kemba Walker will continue his progression as a top-10 point guard in the league and Howard has looked great for the team. Once Batum returns, their second best player and ball handler, they’ll finish strong for a 7th seed.  The Heat have enough with Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside to make it hard for most teams on offense. If Dion Waiters can get hot they should be able to squeak into the playoffs.

Why no Magic? The Magic currently lead the league in efficient field goal percentage while being second in offensive pace. So, in other words, this is not sustainable. Once they come back to earth, they will struggle because of their horrible defense. 

Daniel Farr

  1. Cleveland
  2. Washington
  3. Toronto
  4. Boston
  5. Milwaukee
  6. Philadelphia
  7. Miami
  8. Charlotte

The Eastern Conference and LeBron have had a great relationship, expect it to continue and for Cleveland to stroll through the East once again.

After last year’s NBA Finals it was apparent that the Cavs were not deep enough, now they have a very deep team and the playmaker James called for in Wade.

The one team who was thought to compete with the Cavs were the Celtics, but they lost their second best player, Hayward to a gruesome injury. Kyrie got what he asked for, to be the go-to guy on an NBA team. The Celtics traded away too many key pieces from last year’s roster to take down a very deep Cavs team.

The Wizards have a very solid team that may even finish in first place out East, but come playoff time, they will be unable to dethrone the King.

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