Every NBA team has different expectations. In the East, it’s especially interesting because Lebron left. This means all the teams that couldn’t get past him are now thinking it’s their turn. Here are the teams with the most pressure:
Why not start with the team that was one game away from making it to the finals last year? Many expect them to finally get over the hump this year. They have some promising young guys in Jaylen Brown and Jason Tatum, and two stars will hopefully be healthy for the entire season in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.
If you also consider all of their other key contributors such as Al Horford, Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier, there is a lot of reason for the rest of the East to be scared. Figuring out the rotation might be tough for Brad Stevens, but he’s certainly capable of doing it. Anything short of a finals appearance would be a really disappointing season this year.
This is another team that lost to Lebron in each of the last three years. This past year, many were actually picking the Raptors to win in their matchup with the Cavs, but they were swept. Now, they can finally get over the hump. If you add the Kawhi trade to the mix, the pressure is even higher. They had a solid star in DeMar Derozan who loved playing for the Raptors, and they traded him for a player who might disappear halfway through the season in Kawhi Leonard. This means the Raptors need to be very competitive throughout the season to keep him motivated to perform at a high level. In the playoffs, anything short of a finals appearance will be a failure for them.
When you have a star player who some say is the future of the league, there is a lot of pressure. The star has to live up to the hype, and the team needs to perform in the postseason. That is the case with Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. Giannis has the tools to be a top three player for years to come, as he has great length, is athletic, can handle the ball well, is unstoppable in the paint, and plays good defense. He doesn’t have a jump shot, but his other skills more than compensate. However, he has failed to make the second round. Making the second round is a bear minimum for them, but I think failing to make it to the Eastern Conference Finals would be a bad season.
Remember when the everyone said the Wizards would be a top team in the East? Everyone said they had a great backcourt in John Wall and Bradley Beal. I never believed in them and they have yet to give me any reason to start. They made it to the second round a few times, but never were competitive with the best in the East. Last year was a big step back as they only landed the eighth seed. I think that another disappointing season means they need to look into major changes. At the very least, they need to make the second round and give the top teams in the East a real run for their money.
The 76ers have two very promising stars, and a lot of solid players to surround them. If Fultz gets over the yips, they might have a new big three. Last year they had a close five game series with the Celtics where they should have won three of those games they lost. When a team has this much promise, they better made something of it. Ultimately, with their talent, I think it would be a bad season if they fail to make the eastern conference finals.
There are other teams with some pressure. The Pacers had a really great year and want to build on that, and the Pistons trading for Blake Griffin and hiring Dwayne Casey means some have high expectations for them. Although, I do believe the five teams mentioned have the most to look forward to with Lebron leaving, or need a very good year to avoid thinking that their last five years of (re)building were a waste.
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