2020 NBA Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions

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TORONTO, ON- APRIL 27 - Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) calls a timeout as Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons (25) chases after him as the Toronto Raptors play the Philadelphia 76ers at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto. April 27, 2019. (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Last week, we took a look at the 2020 NBA Western Conference Playoff Predictions. This week, we will be looking at the East. This year, the East appears to be the more top-heavy conference of the two. Although eight teams will make the playoffs, there are fewer title contenders than in the West. With that said, the East will still provide plenty of excitement. The East has the reigning MVP and a competitive group of teams that will jockey for the top eight seeds. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the 2020 Eastern Conference playoff predictions.

2020 NBA Eastern Conference Playoff Predictions

1. Milwaukee Bucks

When you have Giannis Antetokounmpo the reigning MVP on your team, you’re going to be at the top of the playoff predictions. But one weakness of Giannis’ game is his shooting. Giannis has said, “I think I am at 60 percent of my potential”. If he shoots the ball better this year, he will be an MVP favorite again.

The Milwaukee Bucks made it to the conference finals last year, and bring back the majority of that same squad. The big question is how much will the loss of Malcolm Brogdon in free agency be for the Bucks? Brogdon was the most efficient shooter on this team in 2018. Shooting over 50% from the field, 90% from the charity stripe and 40% from downtown is a lot of production to replace. Adding one of the best sharpshooters of the decade in Kyle Korver will help with that loss.

2. Philadelphia 76ers

Speaking of shooting issues, the Philadelphia 76ers know all about that. Notably one of their franchise stars Ben Simmons. In fact, Simmons shooting woes have been such a story that the crowd went ballistic when Simmons hit a three in a preseason game. New additions Al Horford and Josh Richardson (both 36% career three-point shooters) will look to help the team in that department. With all that said though, this team runs through Joel Embiid. If Embiid can stay healthy for a full season, this team will be competing for the one seed up until the very end. When fully healthy, Embiid is in the conversation for the best big man in the NBA.

This team should be stout defensively as the majority of their team have great defensive reputations. This year is finals or bust in the city of brotherly love.

3. Toronto Raptors

After the two teams at the top of these playoff predictions, we hit a mess of teams that can finish anywhere from three to seven. The Toronto Raptors are the reigning champions and deserve to be respected. Although losing Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard stings, this is a team that went 17-5 without Leonard last season. They bring back a large amount of the team from last year including Kyle Lowry who is fresh off a 31 million dollar extension. Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol return to make a formidable duo in the paint. The ceiling of this team rides on the shoulders of Pascal Siakam. In the first game of the Finals last year, Siakam looked like a Finals MVP candidate with his 32 points performance. He will now have to consistently be their main weapon offensively. Toronto remains a well-oiled unit under Nick Nurse and is a formidable unit especially on Defense.

4. Boston Celtics

How big of a loss will Al Horford be for Boston? Last year’s locker room issues have been well documented, but Horford was their stable leader. The Celtics are trusting their young pieces to step up. Jayson Tatum took a step back in 2018 after looking like a future stud in his rookie season. Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown‘s defense remain great assets, but they need to take steps on offense. Gordon Hayward is another year removed from surgery and will be expected to live up to his 32 million dollar salary after a bad 2018. The point guard position is in good hands with Kemba Walker. Walker enjoyed his best season by far last year and played like a man possessed in the first half of the season. It’s a new era in Boston, and Celtics fans should enjoy a drama-free season with success on the court.

5. Brooklyn Nets

An argument could be made that the Brooklyn Nets had one of the busiest offseasons. They shipped out their best player D’Angelo Russell to Golden State and formed a dynamic duo of their own. Starting with Kyrie Irving, Irving will have complete control of the ship while Kevin Durant sits out the year recovering from Achilles surgery.

Irving’s leadership has been questioned before, but this is his chance to silence those critics. Joining them in free agency is DeAndre Jordan who will compete with incumbent Jarrett Allen for the starting center position. Neither choice is a bad choice as they are two of the league’s elite rim protectors. Irving will have help on offense, most notably Joe Harris who was second in the league in catch and shoot three-pointers a year ago (48.1%). Unfortunately, this team’s ceiling is lowered without Durant.

6. Miami Heat

Buckle up South Beach, this will be your most exciting season since LeBron James left. General Manager Pat Riley proved he can still draw stars to the Miami Heat when he signed four-time all-star Jimmy Butler. Butler will look to fill the void left behind by Miami’s most iconic player Dwyane Wade. Thankfully for Butler, he has a good, young supporting cast around him. Tyler Herro lit up the NBA summer league and had 18 points in his preseason debut. Herro looks confident and poised and is versatile enough to play minutes at both backup point and shooting guard. Bam Adebayo and Justise Winslow are the other two building blocks of the Heat’s future to be on breakout watch. Head coach Erik Spoelstra emphasizes good defense in his system, and this team should meet his standards. All in all, they’re still another star player away from true title contention.

7. Indiana Pacers

The Indiana Pacers would be the three seed in these playoff predictions if Victor Oladipo was healthy. In late June, team president Kevin Pritchard said, “I’m hopeful he’ll be back December or January.” When Oladipo comes back, this team will be the sleeper team in the East. Oladipo is a dynamic scorer who put up 23 PPG two years ago. He had also blossomed into a very good defensive player. Until Oladipo returns, there will be a fresh set of faces carrying the Pacers. Led by previously mentioned Malcolm Brogdon, the Pacers also added quality starters and role players such as T.J. McConnell, Jeremy Lamb, and T.J. Warren. To conclude, fans have been waiting on a Myles Turner breakout season. Can the fifth-year big out of Texas finally meet those expectations?

8. Orlando Magic

Flip a coin to determine who gets the eight seed. Both the Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic make strong cases to be here. The Magic get the smallest edge because they did it last season. The Magic return nearly the same roster from a year ago and are now fully healthy. Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic are in the conversation for the best frontcourt in the league. It’s fair to wonder if Vucevic will play as well as he did last year when he was playing for a new contract.

Eyes will be on number one overall pick in 2017 Markelle Fultz as this is his do or die season as the sixth man. If the Magic want to improve from last year and not stay stagnant, Fultz, as well as lottery picks Mohamed Bamba and Jonathan Isaac must develop on offense.

As For The Rest of The East

The Detroit Pistons will certainly be in the hunt for a playoff birth all year. Blake Griffin has adapted his game to fit the game today and should remind the league why he’s one of the most underrated superstars. Derrick Rose who had his best year since 2011 last year will win Detroit a couple of games by himself. The rest of the East is in rebuilding mode. Atlanta and Chicago are the furthest along in their rebuilds. While Washington, Cleveland, New York, and Charlotte are just beginning. In conclusion, the East is not as good as the West this year. But just like the West, the fight for the third through seventh playoff seeds will be a slugfest all the way through April.

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