Nick Wetzel, Sports Editor
|LeBron James finally fulfilled his promise of bringing a title to Cleveland in an epic seven game series against the reigning champs. The Cavs don’t look like they’re done yet either. They were finally able to resign J.R. Smith after a tumultuous summer and they also brought in Mike Dunleavy Jr. to join their impressive bench of accomplished veterans. The biggest questions surrounding Cleveland this season will be point guard related. Can Kyrie Irving sustain the level of play he had during the playoffs over a full season? And who will play backup point guard, as Matthew Dellavedova and Mo Williams are both no longer with the team. Besides that, the Cavs look poised to compete for another title.
|The Pistons looked like they were going to be able to grab one of the top four spots in the East prior to Reggie Jackson’s knee injury. Jackson should only be out about six to eight weeks, so he’ll have time to regain his performance level in time for the playoffs. The problem is that the Pistons’ best weapon on offense was the Jackson/Andre Drummond pick-and-roll. Ish Smith has enough playmaking ability to supplement most of Jackson’s game, but he doesn’t have the shooting chops that Jackson provides so opposing teams will have no problems sagging off of him in pick-and-rolls. As long as Jackson comes back healthy, Detroit won’t slip too far from the fourth seed.
|The Bucks were a disappointment last year. They were a lot of people’s sleeper playoff pick, but they struggled for much of the season and finished the year 33-49. They’ll be better this year, with Greg Monroe having a full season with the team under his belt and Jabari Parker completely healthy. Unfortunately for them, their playoff chances took a bit of a hit with an injury to possibly their best two-way wing, Khris Middleton. Losing Middleton hurts the Bucks’ ability to space the floor for “The Greek Freak,” Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Bucks best lineups feature the young star as the primary ball handler as he is dangerous as a facilitator and scorer. “Point Giannis” is also a triple-double machine and should be able to guide the Bucks to as high as a fifth seed in the Eastern Conference.
|The Pacers made noise last year when they took the Raptors to seven games in the first round of the playoffs. Paul George put any doubts about his ability to return from the gruesome leg injury he suffered to sleep by playing arguably his best season ever. With George, Myles Turner, Monta Ellis, and newly-acquired Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young, the Pacers will contend for the playoffs. The biggest issue for them will be a lack of production off of the bench and a weak defensive backcourt.
|The Bulls had an interesting offseason as stalwarts Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah are both no longer with the team, but they were able to get Dwayne Wade to return to his hometown. The Bulls also added Rajon Rondo, Robin Lopez, and they drafted Denzel Valentine. They have a decent roster, but don’t appear to really be a threat to make the playoffs in the East. Their problem lies in the fact that their smaller starters all need the ball in their hands to be effective. Rondo doesn’t have the shooting ability to play off of the ball, D-Wade is most effective with the ball in is hands, and Jimmy Butler (who is their best player) is also ball-dominant and rarely scores two-pointers off of assists. They’ll fight for one of the last spots, but they probably won’t make the playoffs.