In the aftermath of the Donovan Mitchell trade to Cleveland, the NBA’s Eastern Conference is presumed to be stacked for this upcoming season. Gone are the days of the lopsided quality being mostly in the Western Conference. With this increased quality, however, some very good teams are in danger of missing the playoffs altogether, despite a quality roster.
Several teams in the lower playoff tier significantly improved their rosters, while others chose to run it back as is. Our first squad is in more danger of being on the outside looking in, given the assumption of health throughout the conference.
Eastern Conference Team #1: The Chicago Bulls
The assumption of health is already disqualified when it comes to the Bulls, as they will begin the season and possibly finish it without their star point guard, Lonzo Ball. On the surface level, Lonzo is maybe Chicago’s fourth-best player, but in the grand scheme of the team, he is their best defender and playmaker. His presence will be sorely missed on this already defensively desperate team. Alex Caruso and Ayo Dosunmu will need to step up their play in order to pick up the slack.
DeMar DeRozan is coming off a career year and an All-NBA Second Team appearance, with an MVP campaign earlier in the season. Many are dubious about his ability to repeat his performance, as he is on the wrong side of thirty and needs to help carry this roster. Zach Lavine has yet to take the step toward becoming a consistent superstar, but his performance can help this team immensely.
The Bulls last season hobbled to the sixth seed on the back of DeRozan’s phenomenal season. With no significant roster improvements aside from a couple of veteran pickups in the offseason, it would be difficult for them to contend with the best of the East and solidify a spot. The Magic seem to have won the Nikola Vucevic trade at the moment on the basis of Franz Wagner alone. Unless Vucevic establishes his old form of dominance and suddenly becomes a great rim defender, the Bulls will be vying for the 10th seed.