WITH most of the offseason drama behind us teams have taken shape and are starting to prepare themselves for the upcoming season. Some blockbuster trades and free agency moves mean that teams in the West have more talent than ever, which is saying something given their dominance in recent times. That also means for teams in the East that there are plenty of playoff spots up for grabs and I expect some teams to stake their claim for one straight out of the gate. Which non-playoff team from last year can rise into the postseason?
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Ins: D’Angelo Russell, Timofey Mozgov, Allen Crabbe, Jarrett Allen, DeMarre Carroll
Outs: Brook Lopez, Archie Goodwin, Andrew Nicholson, Justin Hamilton
THE Brooklyn Nets are once again becoming relevant, trading for talented guard D’Angelo Russell and are close to reclaiming their first round draft picks. Unfortunately, they won’t be good enough to move into the playoffs.
Ins: Dwight Howard, Michael Carter-Williams, Malik Monk, Dwayne Bacon
Outs: Miles Plumlee, Marco Belinelli, Ramon Sessions
ADDING Dwight Howard could be huge for the Hornets. I still think that the 8x All-Star can contribute in the right place and playing as the role man alongside Kemba Walker could become a lethal combo. Throw in the sharpshooting Malik Monk and you have yourself a playoff bound Charlotte team.
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Ins: Avery Bradley, Luke Kennard, Langston Galloway, Anthony Tolliver
Outs: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Aron Baynes, Marcus Morris
UPGRADING from KCP to Avery Bradley is a step in the right direction for the Pistons, but not enough of an upgrade to make a huge difference. Stuck in no man’s land I expect Detroit to churn out another 30-35 win season.
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Ins: Kelly Olynyk, Bam Adebayo
Outs: Josh McRoberts, Chris Bosh, Willie Reed
THE weird Miami Heat team of 2016-17 will largely return with the same makeup. After starting 11-30, the Heat flipped the script to finish at exactly .500 after tearing off a 30-11 run. Even though they lack a traditional star, the deep Heat squad should come together and play well enough to earn a playoff berth this upcoming year.
New York Knicks
Ins: Tim Hardaway Jr, Frank Ntilikina, Ramon Sessions
Outs: Derrick Rose, Justin Holiday
THIS completely changes if the Knicks manage to get Kyrie Irving but right now I have them missing the playoffs. Rebuilding their team around Kristaps and rookie Frank Ntilikina is a promising sign for the future and getting more assets for Melo could help jumpstart that process. New York is still a few years away from cracking the postseason though.
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Ins: Aaron Afflalo, Marreese Speights, Shelvin Mack, Jonathon Simmons, Jonathan Isaac
Outs: Jeff Green, C.J. Watson, Jodie Meeks
ORLANDO has been a weird team in recent times, failing to hit on many draft picks and throwing inconsistent money at random players. Those moves have seen them anchored at the bottom of the East, winning more than 30 games just once in the last five seasons. I like the addition of Afflalo to this squad and Isaac has All-Star potential, but once again the Magic will be a lottery team in 2017-18.
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Ins: Markelle Fultz, J.J. Reddick, Amir Johnson
Outs: Gerald Henderson, Sergio Rodriguez
I am reluctantly giving the 76ers a tick on the playoff front based on how good the look on paper. I am not fully convinced that they can pull this feat off though, with most of their talented players unable to stay on the court for more than half a season. If we can see a healthy Fultz/Simmons/Embiid combo though, then the league should be scared.
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