Who in the East will challenge the Cleveland Cavaliers this year, and get a chance to also contend for an NBA title? Last year it was the Toronto Raptors, who were able to tie up the series 2-2 after losing the first two games. Then the Cavs stopped coasting and steamrolled over the Raptors, handing them one of their worst losses in franchise history in game 5 and another blowout loss in game 6.
This year there are only a few teams in the East that can actually compete with the Cavaliers and even fewer that actually have a chance of upsetting them in the Eastern Conference finals.
The Indiana Pacers have a new face at point guard with Jeff Teague but he’s not necessarily an upgrade from George Hill. Thaddeus Young adds some defense and rebounding and Al Jefferson gives them an offensive post threat and veteran leadership. Now with Paul George, Monta Ellis, and Myles Turner they have a decent shot at beating the Cavaliers in a regular season game, but they don’t stand a chance in a seven-game series with them.
Except for losing Bismack Biyombo, the Toronto Raptors pretty much have the same roster as last year. They picked up Jared Sullinger to add a face-up threat but didn’t make any significant moves that could help them overthrow King James and his crew.
This leaves the Boston Celtics, who made huge strides this summer, as the best team to take on the Cleveland Cavaliers. They managed to land a perennial All-star in Al Horford who will spread the floor, add defense and form a deadly 1-2 punch with Isaiah Thomas. Rookie Jaylen Brown has loads of potential and can already make an impact on defense with his physical tools. In comes Jimmy Butler; getting Jimmy would make the Boston Celtics go from being the best team to compete with the Cavaliers, to the team with the best chance to upset them for Eastern Conference Champions.
If the Chicago Bulls don’t win enough games this year, Butler may ask for a trade and the Celtics will be able to offer the perfect pieces for him. To make this trade work the Celtics would give up Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, and their 2017 first round pick that they obtained from the Brooklyn Nets. In exchange, the Bulls would give the Celtics Jimmy Butler and Paul Zipser.
This trade would benefit both parties because Chicago will get a lockdown perimeter defender in Avery Bradley, a good wing player in Jae Crowder and a first round pick that could help them in the rebuilding process. The Celtics will gain another All-star in Jimmy Butler who’ll bring even more athleticism to their team (Jaylen brown is a human highlight reel). He can score inside and out in a variety of ways: floaters, threes, alley-oops, post ups etc… all while playing great defense on the likes of Lebron James, Paul George and Demar Derozan.