Kawhi Leonard #2 of the Toronto Raptors with the ball during the Toronto Raptors vs Boston Celtics NBA regular season game at Scotiabank Arena on October 19, 2018 in Toronto, Canada (Toronto Raptors win 113-101) (Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The Eastern Conference in the NBA has a four-team race between the Toronto Raptors, Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers, and the Boston Celtics for the “Beast in the East.” Toronto is first in the East with a 12-4 record, Milwaukee is second with an 11-4 record, the Boston Celtics are fourth with a 9-6 record, and Philadelphia is fifth with a 10-7 record. Toronto acquired Kawhi Leonard in the offseason and dealt DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio. The trade seems to be working for both teams so far.

The Celtics are struggling to start the year because Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving are back after suffering injuries last year. It will take time to adjust to playing together, and figuring the rotation. The 76ers traded to Jimmy Butler this past weekend. He played in his first game against the Orlando Magic on Thursday night, and they lost.

The Race for NBA’s Eastern Conference

Toronto Raptors:

The Toronto Raptors have the best record in the East at 12-4. The Raptors have five players averaging double figures, with Kawhi Leonard leading them with 24.8 points per game. The Raptors are top 10 in scoring offense and field goal percentage. They are 3rd in the league in offensive efficiency behind the Warriors and the Bucks. The Raptors haven’t scored less than 104 points this season, even in their losses.

They are 11-1 when they score 113 points or more. Their only loss was to the Boston Celtics in overtime on Friday night 116-123. They will be one of the top teams in the East at the end of the season.

Struggling Defense:

The defense has been shaky to the season so far, but that will improve during the season. The defense usually takes more time to develop when you have a new player and a new coach. Leonard is one of the best two-way players in the NBA. The Raptors rank 14th in the league in points, but in terms of defensive efficiency, they are 9th. In terms of efficiency, the Raptors have a top ten offense and defense. They have a chance to be the best team in the East and to compete for a championship.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks have a majority of their players back from last season, and they drafted Donte DiVincenzo in the first round from Villanova. The other big change for the Bucks was the hiring of Mike Budenholzer in the offseason. Budenholzer is an offensive mind who was an assistant coach for Gregg Popovich for 16 seasons, before becoming the Atlanta Hawks head coach for five seasons. The Bucks have one of the best players in the NBA in Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is leading the team points, rebounds, and steals.

Giannis Needs Help:

The problem with the Bucks last year was Giannis did all the work and the supporting cast was poor. This year, the supporting cast is playing better, and they signed Brook Lopez in the offseason. They are second in offensive efficiency and sixth in defensive efficiency. They have two players averaging at least 1.5 blocks per game and three players averaging at least 1.2 steals per game.

The Bucks have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference. They are leading the league in points per game, which will be hard to sustain throughout the whole season. They will definitely be in the top four in the East at the end of the season. The question is, who is going to help the Greek Freak on offense?

Boston Celtics

The Boston Celtics came into the season as the favorite to win the Eastern Conference. They have everyone coming back this season after they made it to the Eastern Conference finals last season. Gordon Hayward is coming off that nasty leg injury that he suffered in the first game last season, and Kyrie Irving had knee surgery. The Celtics have struggled on offense this season, but they are first in defensive efficiency.

Slow Start on Offense

The offense is off to a slow start because Hayward and Irving have to get back into game shape after their injuries. An issue is they have a lot of players who can score the ball and the problem is figuring out how to get everyone involved. They are 23rd in offensive efficiency and points per game. Their record is 9-6 on the season and by the end of the season, they will be a top two team in the Eastern Conference. The defense will continue to be great and the offense will improve.

Philadelphia 76ers

The Philadelphia 76ers came into this season with high hopes after losing in the second round of the playoffs. They bring back Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz comes back from injury. Last weekend they traded for Jimmy Butler, and they sent Robert Covington and Dario Saric to the Minnesota Timberwolves. They lost to the Orlando Magic and beat the Utah Jazz since acquiring Jimmy Butler. The problem will be the distribution of the ball because both Embiid and Butler require a lot of touches. The 76ers are 10th in offensive efficiency and points per game. Simmons is the main distributor and he hasn’t been much of a threat from three.

Three-Point Shooting

The issue with the 76ers offense is where will the outside shooting come from? J.J. Reddick is a great three-point shooter who was just inserted back into the starting lineup. Embiid and Butler are average three-point shooters and they traded their best three-point shooters behind Reddick. Their defense is above average and they’re 10th in defensive efficiency and 9th in blocks/steals per game. Jimmy Butler is the second-best two way player in the NBA behind Kawhi Leonard. The 76ers will be a top three team in the east this season, and it will be interesting to see how Butler fits in.

Who’s Going To Come Out On Top?

The Boston Celtics will represent the East in the NBA finals because they have the best defense in the league. They also have the star power to hang with the Golden State Warriors. Kyrie Irving leads the charge for the Celtics, but they have at least three other guys who could take over a game. The Raptors and 76ers only have two guys who could do that, and the Bucks have the Greek Freak. Defense wins championships and the Boston will be there competing for it.

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