2021 NBA Predictions: Semi-Educated Guesses on the Upcoming Season (Eastern Conference)
Why not write some words about possible outcomes for every Eastern conference team for this upcoming NBA season? It’s fun to take wild guesses instead of studying advanced statistics and probabilities.
East Predicted Playoff Bracket
- Milwaukee Bucks
Jrue Holiday will make countless big plays in the playoffs, giving Giannis and Khris Middleton the third star the Bucks have been looking for. The Bucks will beat the Nets in 6 in the East Semis, then the Sixers in 7 in the East Finals, before dethroing the Lakers in 7 in the Finals. Brook Lopez’ impossible-to-block 28-footers will swing the Finals. Giannis will win Finals MVP without leading the team in scoring in the Finals.
2. Philadelphia Sixers
Philly will have a very good regular season behind Embiid, Simmons and the shooting of Curry. The defensive intensity of Embiid, Green and Thybulle will smother opponents. They’ll finish 2nd in the East, then survive an extremely physical matchup with Miami in the second round by smothering Duncan Robinson and Tyler Herro. The Bucks are one of the few teams that can guard Embiid one-on-one, and the Sixers offense will grind to a halt in a brutal East Finals.
3. Miami Heat
Miami will rest Butler and Dragic throughout the year, while Bam, Herro and Nunn grow further into their games. In the playoffs, the Heat will advance past the Toronto-Tampa Raptors, but will limp into the second round and gradually wither against the Sixers, missing the physicality of Jae Crowder and Derrick Jones Jr. The short layoff and condensed schedule will not be kind to the Heat, though they won’t show it until the playoffs.
4. Brooklyn Nets
James Harden will be traded to the Brooklyn Nets for Spencer Dinwiddie, Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen and picks. Steve Nash will briefly consider coming out of retirement when Kyrie misses a month with a bruised ego after Harden joins the team and takes the reigns of the offense. The SuperNets, now lacking depth and depending heavily on either Durant at the 5 or DeAndre Jordan, will be worn down in the playoffs and lose in the East Semis to the Bucks. The contrast between the Bucks and Nets will be glaring. The stories will write themselves as the Nets become the new target of casual fan animus. Kevin Durant will nearly win the series by himself, but the Bucks will come from behind to topple the Nets in 6.
5. Boston Celtics
Boston will have a rough first half before picking up steam with Kemba’s return midseason. Jayson Tatum will put up more than 26 points per game, but lose some efficiency with fewer options. Jaylen Brown will become an All-Star. When injuries hit, depth will become a problem. Rookies and second-year players will get major minutes, as the Celtics fight to stay in the top 6 in the East. When Kemba gets closer to full health, things will look better. The Celtics will lose in 7 to the Durant-Harden-Kyrie SuperNets in the First Round. As a Celtics fan, I very much hope I’m wrong, but this year worries me.
6. Toronto Raptors
The Toronto-Tampa Raptors will play defense, but Kyle Lowry will get rest and Fred VanVleet cannot do all the playmaking by himself. O.G. Anunoby will continue to improve. The team chemistry will be tested due to the strain of living in temporary Tampa living all season and missing family. The Heat will eventually melt the Raptors in an All-Florida First Round match-up.
7. Atlanta Hawks
Fun fun fun till daddy takes the T-Bird away. Tune in to the Hawks for high-scoring and lots of threes. Good luck stream-lining this team when it comes to playoff readiness. Good ball-sharing habits develop over time and then get tested in the playoffs. The Sixers will smother Trae Young and Atlanta in the First Round.
8. Washington Wizards
The Washington Beal-Westbrooks will lead the league in pace, points and they’ll outrun many teams. They’ll start hot and then dip when Westbrook needs rest. Facing the Bucks will lead to an early exit. Wizards fans will ask themselves: Wasn’t this worth it? 72 games of smiles, highlights and optimism for the future? Davis Bertans will lead the league in made 3-pointers and Deni Avdija will get Rookie of the Year votes.
9. Indiana Pacers
Indiana will look to assert Victor Oladipo early in the season, hoping to find his pre-injury dynamism. They will toggle back-and-forth between Sabonis-centered high-posts and Myles Turner three-point barrages. Malcolm Brogdon adds stability but lacks crunch-time prowess. The Pacers will stick around .500 but falter when the schedule demands depth and Doug McDermott and Justin Holiday have to lead second units.
10. Chicago Bulls
Now that the Bulls have Billy Donovan at the helm, they might begin to assert themselves in the East. Unfortunately, they’ve got two score-first guards in Coby White and Zack LaVine who have thus far struggled to make their teammates better. Has it been the coaching limiting LaVine or LaVine’s score-first, pass-second approach? New Bulls front office will attempt to trade Otto Porter and LaVine together before the deadline. Porter’s contract expires this summer and LaVine’s expires in 2022. The Bulls will likely go after Spencer Dinwiddie or Dennis Schroeder in free-agency. Lauri Markkanen will never become what Lauri Markannen was unlikely ever to become — the next incarnation of Dirk Nowitzki may not arrive for another decade.
11. Charlotte Hornets
Gordon Hayward will take 40 shots in one game…just to get that desire out of his system after sharing the ball so often in Boston. Terry Rozier, Malik Monk, DeVonte Graham and P.J. Washington will all appreciate playing with an actual playmaker. The Hornets will be .500 until Hayward inevitably misses time — — (I hope I’m wrong).
12. Detroit Pistons
Blake Griffin is an enigma these days. After a dynamite season two years ago, he played 18 injury-plagued games last year. Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee will take the defensive pressure off of Blake. Unfortunately, they won’t add enough spacing around him. Delon Wright is feisty. Killian Hayes has potential. It will take time. Griffin was fascinating to watch at his peak. Incredibly athletic and a creative passer. It was a shame those Clippers never made it over the hump. He’s 31 now. The Pistons will get younger over the next year or two.
13. Orlando Magic
Jonathan Isaac’s injury limits Orlando’s potential this year. Markelle Fultz will either win Most Improved Player or will get votes. Aaron Gordon might get traded…maybe to the Timberwolves if they have a shot at the playoffs.
14. New York Knicks
Tom Thibodeau will attempt to build something out of Paul Dolan’s wreckage. Obi Toppin will be fun. R.J. Barrett will improve. Elfrid Payton is dynamic but can’t shoot. The Knicks desperately need to draft someone who can shoot and who they can build around. They’ll have a top 3 or 4 pick.
15. Cleveland Cavs
The Cavs will win about 15 games and all Cavs coaching and front office will be grateful no fans will be in attendance this season. Collin Sexton scores. Isaac Okoro has lots of potential.