In case you missed last week’s Western Conference post (which you can see here), we are celebrating the new NBA season and the upcoming release of Now That’s What I Call Music! Volume 60 which comes out this Friday, November 4. To get the nostalgiac Now experience please be sure to connect to your dial-up internet and download all the songs from Limewire, Morpheus, or Kazaa. Make sure to watch out for viruses! Here is a preview of the Eastern Conference teams using songs from the Now! series discography. Following the preview is also the exclusive Josh Juckett NBA Finals prediction so you can know what to expect at the end of the year.
Chicago Bulls: “Suspicious Minds” Elvis Presley- Now 36
First things first, I’m an Elvis fan. I’m also a Bulls fan and very suspicious of this team so this was a natural fit. I don’t know why “Suspicious Minds” was put onto a Now CD, and I also don’t know why the Bulls made the moves they did during the offseason. The Bulls jettisoned Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah while also letting Mike Dunleavy go which seemed to signal a rebuild. Then they brought in Rajon Rondo and Dwayne Wade, two guards who can’t shoot well, to join Jimmy Butler who also can’t shoot well. They’ve made it work through the first week of the season, but it’s a long season and one week of great shooting doesn’t quell my doubts. The best case scenario for the Bulls is likely a 5-8 seed.
New York Knicks: “Tell Me It’s Real” K-Ci & JoJo- Now 3
The Knicks went out and formed their own superteam with the additions of Rose and Noah. The development of Kristap Porzingis and a solid Olympic run for Carmelo Anthony seem like a solid foundation to build on. Brandon Jennings and Courtney Lee are ok role players, but when that’s pretty much all your depth then there are bound to be problems. The East has a lot of good young teams right now and all the Knicks did was get older and more injury-prone. I fully expect Rose and Noah to miss time (remember that part about me being a Bulls fan?) and the lack of quality depth will lead to some truly awful basketball.
Philadelphia 76ers: “Got Money” Lil’ Wayne feat. T-Pain Now 29
Say what you will about the 76ers but they can at least claim to have the most cap space among all NBA teams. With a whopping $21 million in cap space (actual cap space, not counting luxury tax) the 76ers are a whopping $56 million behind the Cavs, last year’s champions. Joel Embiid is someone to get excited about and in the NBA it only takes three or four guys to make a real difference so fortunes can turn quickly. They have some potential quality trade pieces in Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor, but nothing the 76ers do this year will help them in the 2016/17 season.
Atlanta Hawks: “Coming Home” Diddy Now 38
The big news for the Hawks this offseason was the signing of Dwight Howard. Howard, who is from Atlanta, can actually look forward to people cheering for him again…for now. He has a habit of turning fan bases against him, but I actually like the situation he’s in with the Hawks. They’re very good defensively and can beat you in a variety of ways on offense. They don’t have any superstars outside of Howard which may give them a bit of a lower ceiling, but the upside to that is that they won’t miss much if an injury forces anyone (except Howard) to miss time. They look like a top five Eastern conference team.
Orlando Magic: “Wrecking Ball” Miley Cyrus Now 49
The Magic traded Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova, and the 11th pick (Domantas Sabonis) for Serge Ibaka, a one year rental who will be a free agent next season. Last season they traded Tobias Harris for the aforementioned Ilyasova and Brandon Jennings (now with the Knicks) so basically parlayed the only remaining piece of that deal into the rental of Ibaka. They did add Jodie Meeks and have some intriguing pieces in Evan Fournier, Alex Gordon, Mario Hezonja, and Elfrid Payton so this could….could…possibly work out. If things fall their way with development and other teams sliding back they can dream of the eight seed, but don’t hold your breath.
Indiana Pacers: “Keeps Gettin’ Better” Christina Aguilera Now 30
The Pacers came on strong at the end of last year, pushing the two-seed Raptors to seven games and nearly pulling off the upset. The Pacers fired Frank Vogel and opted to bring in more offense in the off-season through new coach Nate McMillan and the acquisitions of Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young, and Al Jefferson. The new guys join Paul George and Myles Turner which should mean the Pacers will score in bunches this season. They won’t be able to guard anybody but defense doesn’t really count until the playoffs. The first week of the season has been rough for the Pacers, but I expect them to straighten their defensive issues out and eventually return to playoff form.
Charlotte Hornets: “I’m a Believer” Smash Mouth Now 8
I really want Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the Hornets to succeed. They made an entertaining run to the playoffs and nearly got past the Heat in the first round. This team has the pieces to be a top five team in the East if they can stay healthy. With injuries to Roy Hibbert and Jeremy Lamb already looking at minor injuries this early the Hornets may end up fighting an uphill battle. If the Hornets can stay healthy I am penciling them in to the second round of the playoffs this year.
Miami Heat: “Fly Away” Lenny Kravitz Now 1
The big three is now history. The only remaining player on the Heat from the team that made the 2014 NBA Finals is Udonis Haslem who is approaching 100 years old. Dwayne Wade’s departure from the Heat left fans hurt while Chris Bosh’s continued health issues have effectively ended the era begun with the big three. The Heat still have a good young core which came within a game of the Eastern Conference Finals last season, but the void left by Wade, Luol Deng, and Bosh will be too big to fill this year.
Detroit Pistons: “Jaded” Aerosmith Now 7
The Pistons have a bunch of talented young players. Andre Drummond, Stanley Johnson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Tobias Harris are all solid guys and coach Stan Van Gundy has shown he can make them competitive. It feels like the Pistons have been in this rebuilding phase for forever and didn’t really add anything to make them significantly better this year. The Pistons benefited from other teams failing to meet expectations last year (Chicago, Washington) and managed to sneak into a playoff spot. They’ll be in the mix for that eight seed, but I think this year they come up just short.
Milwaukee Bucks: “22” Taylor Swift Now 47
The Bucks are the NBA’s youngest team with an average age of 24. 1 years. That’s not quite “22”, but you get the idea. They are one of the most fun teams to watch with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker running around dunking on people. They also have the enigma of Thon Maker on the roster which is fun. Third year coach Jason Kidd will try to help his time find an identity this year, but they’re still probably a year or two from serious playoff contention. In the meantime let’s relive the time Kidd told his player to bump into him so he could spill his drink and get an extra couple seconds with the team.
Brooklyn Nets: “Make Me Better” Fabulous Now 26
This is the cry from Nets fans. They return only five players from last year and only Brook Lopez is worth mentioning. None of the additions they made are worth mentioning. The Nets were better than only the Lakers and the 76ers last year. This year I think they will be the worst team in the NBA.
Cleveland Cavaliers: “Don’t Stop the Party” Pitbull Now 45
Fresh off their ring ceremony the Cavs proceeded to destroy the Knicks on opening night. Beating the Knicks by itself isn’t that impressive, but to beat Toronto on the road then come home the next night and beat the Magic showed that the Cavs are not going to settle. I don’t expect them to go on a 2015 Warriors-esque run and win 20+ in a row, but they might. Their biggest losses were Timofey Mozgov and Matthew Dellavedova but the additions of Chris Andersen, Mike Dunleavy, and Deandre Liggins should mitigate that. I fully expect to see the Cavs back in the Finals next June.
Washington Wizards: “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” U2 Now 9
The Wizards seem to be in a rut and they can’t get out of it. Spoiler alert: the trio of John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Marcin Gortat is not going to win a championship. Otto Porter is what he is. Kelly Oubre may become something, but it’s not happening fast. The Wizards added a bunch of parts: Trey Burke, Danuel House, Ian Mahinmi, and a few others. Wall is a superstar, but he’s only one man. The Wizards aren’t going anywhere this year.
Boston Celtics: “Dark Horse” Katy Perry Now 50
Almost everybody in the world is expecting Cavs-Warriors part III next June so don’t misconstrue this as a bold prediction. Rather, I’m saying that if there is another team other than Cleveland representing the East in the Finals, it will be the Boston Celtics. Brad Stevens got an upgrade over Jared Sullinger with Al Horford and the additions of Gerald Green and Jaylen Brown give this team some considerable depth. The Celtics drew a bad matchup against the Hawks but could’ve easily ended up as the three seed and had an easier path (matchup-wise) to the ECF. Cleveland is in a class by itself, but the Celtics are right up there with the Raptors in the second-tier.
Toronto Raptors: “Run Dat Back” Jadagrace Now 42
The Raptors are poised to essentially try exactly what they did last year. They didn’t make many roster moves and brought back the core of their team which fell to the Cavs in six in the Conference Finals. Despite the fact that the Raptors lost games by 31, 19, 38, and 26 in the ECF, there was a lot to be said for the traditionally playoff-inept Raptors making it past the first round. Sure they struggled mightily with teams they should’ve handled, but they got over the hump in advancing. The question this season is not if they will make the playoffs, they will. They’ll be a top three seed in the East. Can they get past the Cavs? No, I don’t think so. At least they have a guy who can do this though:
Playoff Seed Predictions
Golden State def. Cleveland in seven