NBA Eastern Conference Preview: 7th and 8th Seeds

In day two of our NBA Previews, we start from the bottom with the seventh and eighth seeds. We’ll continue this pattern over the course of the week until we finish with the seeding and conclude with our predictions for this season’s Finals.

Many of you will disagree with me, and that’s fine because your thoughts really don’t matter. So before reading further, check out yesterday’s post on bubble teams, so you understand why your team didn’t make the cut. The first couple of seeds today don’t challenge the status quo as much, and are pretty safe picks, though coaching alone could prove me to be an ignorant bastard.

Without further ado, let’s begin the countdown.

  1. Boston Celtics

jae-crowder

Last Year Finish: 7th

Projected Starting Five

Point Guard: Marcus Smart
Shooting Guard: Avery Bradley
Small Forward: Jae Crowder
Power Forward: David Lee
Center: Kelly Olynyk

6th Man: Isaiah Thomas

The drop from seventh to eighth is not an indication of how I feel about this team’s offseason, but rather how I feel about the other teams above them. The truth is, this is a Boston team I can actually root for, and that’s really hard for me to say. Over the years I’ve despised the Celtics, but Brad Stevens gives them a different sort of connotation. They’re scrappy. They’re smart. They’re young. They really want to win.

I’m excited to see what a full year of Isaiah Thomas will do for this team, as well as how his presence will influence the evolution of Marcus Smart. Grabbing Amir Johnson from Toronto wasn’t as splashy as the rest of free agency, but they also traded for David Lee (a stud in Golden State before the arrival of Draymond Green), and having both of those options down low is a luxury. I think Jae Crowder will prove himself to be a formidable three in a sea of them. In a league where teams have gone small, the small forward is the new shooting guard, and this is where the Celtics worry me.

I don’t think they are a potent enough offense to dictate a game, and when your bigs are true bigs, teams that like to spread the floor will probably expose that part of your game. Kevin Love, Spencer Hawes, Chris Bosh, Josh McRoberts, and even the mid-range guys like Nene and Pau Gasol are going to hurt these guys because they have range. Brad Stevens will have to get creative if he wants to limit outside shots.

The X-Factor?

Marcus Smart’s maturation. As good as Isaiah Thomas is, you want to keep him on the bench so that you can have faith in your second lineup. To really hurt other defenses, Marcus Smart is going to have to justify his role in the starting lineup with consistently good play and solid leadership. If Marcus Smart can prove to be a threat at the one, then defense will have to deal will solid guard play for all 48 minutes.

  1. Milwaukee Bucks

jason-kidd-bucks

Last Year’s finish: 6th

Projected Starting Five:

Point Guard: Michael Carter-Williams
Shooting Guard: Khris Middleton
Small Forward: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Power Forward: John Henson
Center: Greg Monroe

6th man: Jabari Parker / Greivis Vasquez / OJ Mayo

Here’s another team that isn’t dropping because of their offseason, but rather because one particular team is pushing them down. This is a good ass roster.

Grabbing Greg Monroe from not one, but two conference opponents was a huge win for this franchise. He not only spurned his old team in Detroit, but flat out dismissed the idea of playing in Madison Square Garden for the New York Knicks! Couple that with the acquisition of Greivis Vasquez (a severely underrated guard) and the return of Jabari Parker, this team can only go up.

I think Jason Kidd made a statement about his coaching ability last year and by building success without the presence of Jabari Parker was significant in that it takes some of the pressure off of Parker’s return. They have a formidable starting five. He doesn’t have to come and save them. All he has to do is contribute.

My concern with this team is in their defense. The Chicago Bulls, while a model for consistency, should not have beaten them last year, but they were able to on Milwaukee’s inability to defend them. Greg Monroe will certainly help in that regard, but Henson and Parker are going to have to bang with some of the bigger fours in the East, and I’m not sure they’ll hold up.

X-Factor?

Is this the year Giannis delivers the Greek Leap? He is one of the rawest players in the league in terms of natural talent and potential, but he’s still carving out some of that basketball knowledge, which in modern day, is everything. I mean look at Tim Duncan. If Giannis can hit the basketball books, play well and ensure that Jabari doesn’t take his spot in the lineup, this team will be dangerous. And so much freaking fun to watch.

 

 

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