This summer’s NBA free agency season has been one of the most chaotic in recent memory. Two of the most prominent moves: former Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant joined the Golden State Warriors, and former Miami Heat “lifer” Dwyane Wade moved to the Chicago Bulls.
With the league turning upside down, both conferences have experienced turnover, for better or for worse.
The Eastern Conference is getting better. In recent years, it has generally been considered inferior to the West, but it showed its potential last year. Western conference playoff teams had a combined regular season winning percentage of .635; Eastern conference playoff teams had a combined .600 winning percentage.
The Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA championship, a sure sign that the Eastern conference is getting stronger. The Cavs will be the team to beat, but they may have more competition next season. Here are five Eastern Conference teams that will challenge the Cavs in 2016-17.
Free Agent Signings and Trade Acquisitions: Jeff Teague (traded from Atlanta Hawks), Thaddeus Young (traded from Brooklyn Nets), Al Jefferson (three-year, $30 million deal), Jeremy Evans (traded from Dallas Mavericks)
- Teague’s 2015-2016 stats: 15.7 PPG, 5.9 APG, 43.9 FG%, 40.0 3FG%
- Young’s 2015-2016 stats: 15.1 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 51.4 FG%
- Jefferson’s 2015-2016 stats: 12.0 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 48.5 FG%
- Evans’s 2015-2016 stats: 2.4 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 54.2 FG%
How They Finished Last Season: 45-37, 7th in the East; lost to the Toronto Raptors in seven games in first round of the playoffs.
Outlook For Next Season: The Pacers are back. After a brief retooling period that lasted from 2014-2016, they have the potential to be a force in the East again. All-Star Paul George is coming off the best season of his career, averaging 23.1 points and seven rebounds per game. George and the Pacers fought until the end against the Raptors, showing they were only a few players away from being a legitimate contender in the East. Teague will provide solid point guard play in place of George Hill, who was traded to the Utah Jazz. Young and Jefferson will be good options down low, providing scoring and rebounding. The Pacers were the seventh seed last season, but their new additions give them the potential to be a top-three seed in the East next season.
Free Agent Signings And Trade Acquisitions: Spencer Dinwiddie (traded from Detroit Pistons), Rajon Rondo (two-year deal with second year partially guaranteed, $28 million), Dwyane Wade (two-year deal, $47.5 million)
- Dinwiddie’s 2015-2016 stats: 4.8 PPG