On this week’s Bleav in Wizards podcast, I was joined by Bryce Simon, a former American University basketball player and co-host of The Pistons Pulse Podcast, for an Eastern Conference preview. We went through and analyzed each team, their roster additions, key departures, likely starting units, and core rotation players.
Based on our assessment of their rosters, we organized each of the teams into different tiers. We didn’t necessarily rank them in order but tried to group the teams based on our expectations for them for the season. For a detailed breakdown of each roster and each team, please check out the full podcast. I will provide an extremely high-level summary of my thoughts on each team here.
They kept their core group intact and managed to add a key piece in Joe Ingles, assuming he can stay healthy this season. I was also really high on their first-round pick MarJon Beauchamp. And then there’s that Giannis Antetokounmpo fellow.
This team is probably still a move away, but any team with Kevin Durant has a shot at making a deep playoff run. The additions of TJ Warren and Royce O’Neale should give them veteran wing depth as well.
I really liked their off-season moves. PJ Tucker and DeAnthony Melton will provide extra defensive toughness and I would not be surprised to see Tyrese Maxey take another jump this season. If Harden is motivated and in shape, look out.
Bryce was higher on the Celtics than I am. They’re obviously really good but this roster seems imbalanced. Between Marcus Smart, Derrick White, Malcolm Brogdon, and Payton Pritchard the Celtics seem very guard-heavy. And other than Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown they don’t have any other competent wings on the roster.
Playoff teams but more pretenders than contenders
It would not surprise me to see this team finish with a better regular season record than one or more of the teams listed in the previous tier. But they’re still too young for me to think they can go all the way. I think any team would be hard-pressed to win a championship with Isaac Okoro and Cedi Osman as its top two wings.
A core of Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, and Precious Achiuwa is a great place to start. I think Barnes is going to take a big leap this season and I just trust this organization to make things work. Everyone talks about Heat culture but I’m a firm believer in Raptors culture.
Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler both have a lot of mileage at this point. Inevitably they have to really slow down, right? Probably? It’s hard to totally count them out but for reasons I can better explain verbally (another plug for the pod), I think this team is finally headed for a regular season drop-off.
There’s a lot of talent on this roster but also a lot of question marks for me. Similar to the Heat, I wonder about this team’s ability to stay healthy. DeMar DeRozan has to get old at some point, Zach LaVine has had some injury issues, I have no idea when Lonzo Ball will be back at full strength, and Nikola Vucevic will be at the beginning of the season. They were pretty snake-bitten last season and still won 46 games but I just don’t trust this group.
Likely to end up as Play-in teams
Dejounte Murray is really good. But both he and Trae Young need the ball to be effective and beyond them, I don’t have much confidence in their guards. The starting five is really talented but I just don’t see the depth with this group and they could be one injury away from a rough season.
I know better than to be overly optimistic as a Wizards fan so I’m hedging a bit by putting them in this tier. However, there’s something about this mix of guys that I have a good feeling about. I think Bradley Beal and Kristaps Porzingis have something to prove, Kyle Kuzma and Monte Morris seem to be culture-builders, and there’s good, interchangeable depth throughout this roster. Every year there’s a surprise team, could this be the Wizards’ year?
New York Knicks
There’s talent here but this just strikes me as another weirdly constructed roster. Can Jalen Brunson be as effective when he’s the focal point of the defense? Can RJ Barrett take another leap? Can Julius Randle regain his 2020-2021 form? Quentin Grimes, Immanuel Quickley, and Obi Toppin are all talented but can they be consistently good for the entire season? We shall see!
Bad but probably not bad enough to get Victor Wembanyama or Scoot Henderson
LaMelo Ball seems likely to take another jump this season. Terry Rozier is solid. Gordon Hayward is really good when healthy. But I just have a feeling things might get ugly in Charlotte this year. Personally, I hope Miles Bridges is out of the league but from a strictly X’s and O’s standpoint, I think that’s a big loss for them. And I don’t really trust anyone else on their roster. If any of their top three get hurt, I think this team would instantly drop to the bottom tier.
If they keep Buddy Hield and Myles Turner, even until the trade deadline, they probably stay in this year. If they trade them for picks then I’d put them a tier lower, no matter how good Tyrese Haliburton is.
Cade Cunningham alone is probably too good for them to end up with a top three pick again, barring some serious lottery luck. With Saddiq Bey, Jaden Ivey, Jalen Duren, Marvin Bagley III, and company, I think this team could be frisky and fun to watch.
Most likely to end up with a top 3-pick
I actually really like several of their pieces and think they’re going to surprise some teams with how competitive they will be. I’ve been the President of Paolo Banchero fan club all season, I had Franz Wagner higher on my draft board than Scottie Barnes, and Wendell Carter Jr. is seriously underrated. Plus, their guards all bring something unique to the table. Ultimately, I think this front office knows it needs another piece and it wouldn’t shock me to see them pull an Oklahoma City Thunder and shut down some of their core guys toward the end of the season.