The NBA season is now a little more than a full month away. Teams are beginning to prepare for the exhibition part of the season. What’s the outlook on the league? Start with the East for your NBA picks.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers - Odds to Win East: -125
In the offseason, the Cavaliers went from being a non-playoff team to being the favorite to win the Eastern Conference. LeBron James made Cleveland a top-four team in the East, but the Cavaliers needed another big piece to become a top-level championship contender. Kevin Love is definitely that piece. Love is a quality outside shooter, and he’s a low-post scorer who can team up with James to create all sorts of problems for defenses. LeBron does not prefer to post up, and if anything, one of the main criticisms of his game in Miami with the Heat was that he didn’t post up often enough. With Kevin Love on the Cavs’ roster, though, LeBron James can continue to play a face-up game on the perimeter. He won’t have to change how he plays. He can remain in a comfort zone, and since Love will command attention in the post, LeBron’s going to have a lot of space with which to operate, a reality increased by the presence of Kyrie Irving at the point. Cleveland’s offense is going to be extremely hard to stop. It will have a better collection of offensive players than what LeBron had in Miami.
2. Chicago Bulls - Odds to Win East: +250
When making your NBA picks keep in mind this team depends on Derrick Rose for its offense. Rose has barely played at all over the course of the past two seasons. Everyone in the NBA knows two things. First, if Chicago does have a healthy and reasonably explosive version of Rose in the lineup from November through May, it just might be able to knock off Cleveland and make the NBA Finals. The second thing is that Rose is just not likely to make it through the season completely healthy. He’s probably going to run into problems at some point. Chicago’s defense is proven and tested, so it’s not as though the Bulls can’t hang in when their offense and Rose are not firing on all cylinders. Chicago has shown over the past two years that it won’t fall apart during the regular season if Rose is out. However, Rose has to be strong and fresh in the playoffs if this team is going to contend, and that’s just not a certainty yet.
3. Washington Wizards - Odds to Win East: +1500
With huge NBA odds listed at +1500, this is the question mark of the three, and it’s a close call between the Wizards, the Atlanta Hawks, and the Toronto Raptors for the third-best team in the East. Toronto has some great young wing players in DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, but Washington can match that with John Wall and Bradley Beal. Atlanta has a strong frontcourt scorer in Al Horford and a quality rebounder in Paul Millsap, but Washington has enough size and length to counter the Hawks with Marcin Gortat and Nene Hilario. The addition of Paul Pierce should give the Wizards some needed experience and the kind of stability that the Hawks and Raptors might not own to the same degree.