The Eastern Conference teams didn’t shine as bright as the West did in the first wave of NBA action in over 130 days. They added only one more team to the bubble in Orlando while the West added 5 more teams to compete for the 8th seed. This gap in teams can be why the West seemed so much smoother during the first scrimmages. Although some Eastern teams struggled and did not impress enough to turn heads, we had a few squads show up and send a warning before the NBA officially tips off its 8 regular season reboot. As a reminder, please be aware that these teams have been analyzed after their first game back competitively. If teams look better after their first game it could be that things finally clicked and they were able to get back to what brought them to Orlando.
THE EASTERN CONFERENCE’S WEAKEST TEAMS
BROOKLYN SHOWS YOU NEED A TEAM TO WIN
As much as I want to give the Nets a break, they played absolutely horrible and scored the lowest amount of points out of any team in the first stretch of games. They are missing some important players like Kyrie, KD, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, and Wilson Chandler who all remained home instead of taking the trip down to Florida. Brooklyn also lost Michael Beasley for a while as he recovers from COVID-19. He tested positive after recently signing with Brooklyn as a roster addition to combat the loss of players. The Nets have first game showed us they really don’t possess any type of team chemistry. They shot under 36% from the field and hit a whopping 25% from 3 point range. They also turned the ball over 7 more times than the number of assists they had, and their bench had no reliable guard that can score. With Jamal Crawford coming to the team, and Beasley hopefully making a speedy recovery, maybe the Nets can salvage something but the future in Orlando isn’t looking bright for the Nets.
WASHINGTON STRUGGLES WITHOUT THEIR STAR
If the Nets weren’t as weak I would completely rule out the Wizards aspirations to make something of themselves in 8 regular-season games. The scrimmage they played versus a short manned Nuggets team shows that the Wizards need Bradley Beal and even John Wall if they want to compete. I love Rui Hachimura and his near double-double was the spark that almost got the Wizards a win, but this team is absolutely wounded right now. They couldn’t buy a basket and their best bench players were Moritz Wagner and Ish Smith. They are the only added team in the East competing for the 8th seed and I see it as a hard task to sneak into the playoffs. They certainly can compete against the Nets, but I can’t see them making any noise in the playoffs should they get in.
BOSTON’S BEST PLAYERS WERE ITS COMPETING BIG MEN
Boston’s starting 5 struggled on both sides of the ball against the Thunder during their game. They were without their floor general as Kemba Walker missed the first scrimmage due to a knee injury. The best players on the Celtics versus OKC were their big men, who seem to still be competing for starting minutes. Enes Kanter earned himself a double-double while Daniel Theis scored 8 points in 15 minutes. The 3 ball was not in the Celtics favor hitting only 20% from 3. Rust was expected from all teams after a long break in any action and contact with other players, but the Celtics are contenders for the title and should not have been outplayed the way they were with that much talent on their team.
THE MIDDLE OF THE PACK TEAMS IN THE EAST SO FAR
The teams that neither stuck out or played a super sloppy game were the Pacers and Magic. Both teams played a good game with Indiana winning and the Magic losing to a much more talented Clippers team. The Pacers were glad to have Brogdon back and healthy as he and TJ Warren led the starting 5 in points. Their bench also scored over 40 as a unit and they were able to hang on and beat the Blazers without their stars Damantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. The Magic lost to the Clippers but overall held their own pretty well aside shooting a horrendous 17% from deep. On the bright side, Orlando had 4 double-digit scorers and can definitely contend in the playoffs when they set the bad shooting nights aside.
THE BEASTS FROM THE EAST
Philly had a close game versus a much weaker Grizzlies team, but they are trying something new with Ben Simmons at power forward and Shake Milton at starting point guard. I am intrigued to see how this line-up plays out for the Sixers because having a play-making forward like Simmons can be scary. This can be a game-changer for Philly as many don’t see them as a legit playoff threat. As expected, Philly also struggled shooting the ball but this was a good starting point for them. They will try to recreate their success from last year and this line-up change might open up more opportunities for them.
MIAMI TURNS UP THE HEAT IN ORLANDO
One of the more underrated teams this year showed up in their first game. Miami had some stellar shooting from Duncan Robinson and even had 4 other players in double digits. Their bench led by former Finals MVP Andre Iguodala and by rising star Tyler Herro helped give Miami a little push versus the Kings down the stretch. The Heat had the game in control the whole time and can give any team a hard and gritty game. Being 4th in the East, they can slide up to the 3rd seed if Boston slacks off in the regular season reboot.
THE CHAMPS ARE IN ORLANDO
Toronto is one of those teams not many saw coming. They lost Kawhi last summer leaving Nick Nurse to prove himself as a coach with the defending champs. They currently are second in the Eastern Conference and are one of the favorites to take the title. They remained pretty healthy all season and showed what they are capable of when they took on Houston on Friday. Serge Ibaka carried the starters with 18 points with the help of Kyle Lowry (11 points) and Pascal Siakam (13 points). Terrence Davis was a beast off the bench scoring 15 points with 5 boards making his case to take OG Anunoby’s starting role. The Raptors looked comfortable after the extended break and can only get better from their first game.
THE BUCKS ARE STILL THE ALPHA’S IN THE EAST
The reigning MVP showed up to Orlando like he had a score to settle. He torched the Spurs with 22 points in 21 minutes to go with his 4 assists and 3 boards all on 69% shooting. Khris Middleton scored 16 points while Brook Lopez went 3-3 from three to earn himself 17 points in 17 minutes. Frank Mason is looking for more minutes as he was able to hit 12 points in 9 minutes. The Bucks have been strong all season and Giannis gave us a glimpse at what he is capable in only 2 quarters. They were by far the best team from any conference during the first round of scrimmages. 8 regular-season games are only gonna light a fire inside of the Bucks and come playoff time we should expect the best from the biggest title contenders.