The 2016 NBA season gets rolling in a few months and the assumption is that the reigning NBA champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers, will be back representing the Eastern Conference due to the lack of competition as compared to the Western Conference that is loaded with talent. While the road for the Cavaliers last season was rather easy as they made it to the NBA Finals. In order for the Cavaliers to make it back to the NBA Finals this upcoming season, it will be a bit tougher as many of the Eastern Conference teams made many upgrades.
First, let’s look at the teams who made the 2016 NBA Playoffs for the Eastern Conference. In addition to the Cleveland Cavaliers having the top seed, you had the Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Charlotte Hornets, Indiana Pacers, and the Detroit Pistons who would round out the rest of the playoffs. The Cavaliers had an easy road as it was shown by their playoff record as they went 16-5. Other than the Golden State Warriors given them a challenge during the NBA Finals, the only Eastern conference team to challenge them was the Raptors during the Eastern Conference Finals.
It still early to do concrete previews, but if you solely go off of what teams were doing during the off season then you can say there are a few 2015 playoff teams who won’t make the playoffs in 2016. One team who you can assure won’t be in the playoffs or in any playoff races is the Miami Heat. The biggest piece they lost was Dwayne Wade who signed with the Bulls and now all that is left in South Beach is Chris Bosh. There is a huge uncertainty that Chris Bosh will contribute at all as he is dealing with injuries. Being that the 2016 Miami Heat are made up of mostly rookies, Mid level players, and a lot of unknown pieces you should not expect to see them in the playoffs.
While Miami will not be in the playoffs, I feel a team like the New York Knicks will make the playoffs. In 2015, the Knicks went 32-50 and missed the playoffs. This off-season they went out and brought in players like Derrick Rose, Joakim Noah, Brandon Jennings, Courtney Lee, and others. My big concern with this team is the injury component as many of the players who were signed by the Knicks have are incredibly injury prone. In addition, the Knicks have an OK bench. While the Cavaliers can probably beat the Knicks, it won’t be an easy walk.
While the Cavaliers will presumably by the Eastern Conference champs, the road for them is probably going to be tougher than last season as there will be a bit tougher competition for them. The Cavaliers are still the Kings of the East, the road to the finals for the champs will be a bit tougher.