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2017-2018 NBA Eastern Conference Preview

The 72nd NBA season tips off tonight with a prime time doubleheader on TNT featuring four teams with some of the league’s most captivating storylines.

In the opener, Boston will visit Cleveland as 2017 All-Stars Gordon Hayward and Kyrie Irving make their Celtics debut and 2010-11 MVP Derrick Rose and 12-time All-Star Dwyane Wade play their first game with the Cavaliers.

In the second game, defending champion Golden State will receive its championship rings before facing Houston in nine-time All-Star Chris Pauls first regular-season appearance with the Rockets. 

In case you need a quick preview of what to look out for around the league, here’s our breakdown of what’s new, different and worth paying attention to for each team. You can check our Western Conference preview here.

ATLANTIC DIVISION

Boston Celtics – Brad Stevens proved once again that he’s one of the brightest basketball minds around by leading Boston to an Eastern Conference-best 53 wins. But this year’s squad will look much different than the one that got snuffed by the Cavaliers in the conference finals as they have only four players returning. Wheeling and dealing General Manager Danny Ainge traded leading scorer Isaiah Thomas and a package of picks and prospects for four-time All-Star point guard and disgruntled LeBron James running mate Kyrie Irving. 

Best of Kyrie Irving from the 2017 Preseason

Check out the best plays from Kyrie Irving of the Boston Celtics during the 2017 Preseason! Subscribe to the NBA: http://bit.ly/2rCglzY For news, stories, highlights and more, go to our official website at http://www.nba.com Get NBA LEAGUE PASS: http://www.nba.com/leaguepass

They signed free agent forward Gordon Hayward away from Utah, traded defensive stopper Avery Bradley to clear salary room and traded the No. 1 pick in the 2017 Draft to move down to the third spot, where they selected Duke forward Jayson Tatum. Hayward, who scored a career-best 21.9 points per game with Utah in 2016-17, has increased his scoring average in each of his first seven seasons.

In Boston’s fast-paced offense, the ball moves often and will make the Irving, Hayward and Tatum combo a boatload for opposing defenses to stop. A weakness last year was rebounding, which new additions Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes have been brought in to address.

Kyrie left Cleveland after helping LeBron, Kevin Love and Crew engineer three straight trips to the finals. The pressure will now be on him to prove that he’s a real alpha dog at the point guard position in the mold of former Pistons great Isiah Thomas. 

Al Horford gets to show off his entire repertoire as a leader, passer, shooter and rebounder with this team, Morris brings a rugged interior presence, Jaylen Brown will emerge on both ends of the floor in his second season and Irving is coming off of a great year that saw him average a career high 25.3 points per game.

(Highlights) GORDON HAYWARD CELTICS Preseason Highlight

HIGHLIGHTS FROM GORDON HAYWARD’S FIRST PRESEASON AS A MEMBER OF THE BOSTON CELTICS. By Clevis Murray

Off the bench, Marcus Smart is becoming a beloved figure and not simply because his name is a case study in learning the Boston accent (Mahcus Smaht Pahks the Cah in Hahvahd Yahd!). He’s a tough, multi-dimensional scorer and vicious defender that brings a unique intensity to excelling in some of the game’s less glamorous aspects. Tatum will bring his instant offense and ability to stretch the defense in as a sub and Baynes will provide some much-needed depth in the frontcourt.

This will be an exciting next chapter in franchise history as Boston seems primed to do battle with LeBron’s Cavs for Eastern Conference supremacy. 

Philadelphia 76ers – After years of being told to trust the process, the time has come for the Sixers to make good on what’s been promised. They have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs this year. 

Philly selected Washington, D.C. native Markelle Fultz with the No.1 overall pick, signed veteran free-agent and long-range marksman JJ Redick to a one-year deal, and added depth and experience in the post with the acquisition of Amir Johnson. 

Joel Embiid 2017 Preseason Debut | October 11 at Nets – 22 Pts, 7 Rebs, 3 Ast in 15 Mins!

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Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, if they can remain healthy, are the reasons why every Sixers fan should be giddy heading into this season. Embiid showed some delicious flashes of brilliance last year in averaging 20.2 points per game in limited minutes. 

But injuries sidelined him and curtailed some of the enthusiasm as he appeared in only 31 games. His skill set has some comparing him to Hakeem Olajuwon, and if he can remain on the court and avoid the injury bug, Philly will be one of the most entertaining young squads in the league.

Ben Simmons Full Highlights 2017.10.13 vs Heat – 19 Pts, 7 Rebs, 5 Ast in 3 Quarters!

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Simmons is a dynamic point-forward who can dazzle with his scoring and exceptional passing ability. Fultz should shine out the gate, Redick, who’s made 200 or more threes in three consecutive seasons, will provide some much-needed perimeter scoring and Dario Saric is one of the league’s best kept secrets. Off the bench, Jahlil Okafor is a load inside, Justin Anderson will bring versatility and Robert Covington is a defensive gem.

Toronto Raptors – The Raptors were 51-31 last season, but Kyle Lowry’s playoff injury left them dead in the water against the Cavs in the conference semifinals. The three winningest seasons in franchise history have all come in the last three seasons: 49-33 in 2014-15, 56-26 in 2015-16 and the aforementioned 51-31 last year.

They re-upped with Lowry on a new three-year contract and inked Serge Ibaka to a three-year deal as well. Changes included trading DeMarre Carroll to Brooklyn and Cory Joseph to Indiana while adding former Pacers swing man C.J. Miles in free agency and O.G. Anunoby in the draft.

The Raptors are good on both sides of the ball, but the question is if they’re good enough to beat the Cavs and the Celtics in the playoffs. 

DeMar DeRozan’s Best of the 2016-2017 Regular Season

This season, DeMar DeRozan continued to show why he’s one of the preeminent wings in the NBA. The now three-time All-Star averaged a career-high in scoring (27.3 ppg) and set the Raptors up for another deep postseason run.

DeMar DeRozan is a bonafied superstar, though he doesn’t get the recognition that guys like LeBron, KD, Steph Curry, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leoanrd and others get. DeRozan averaged a career-best 27.3 points per game last year and if he can improve his three-point stroke, Toronto could be more of a dangerous threat to the elite squads in the east. 

Jonas Valanciunas nearly averaged a double-double last year with 12 points and 9.5 rebounds per game, Norman Powell is a dynamic young player coming off the bench who has plenty of room to improve and Delon Wright, the 2015 Bob Cousy Award winner as the best college point guard in the country at Utah, will turn some heads this year as a rotation player in the backcourt.

Brooklyn Nets – This year will be all about accumulating assets and rebuilding in Brooklyn. They traded Brook Lopez to the Lakers for D’Angelo Russell and Timofey Mozgov, acquired forward DeMarre Carroll from the Raptors and traded for Portland swingman Allen Crabbe. 

Russell, the former No.2 overall pick in the 2015 draft, never found his groove in L.A., but he’ll have a great opportunity to shine in the Nets’ fast-paced attack. He averaged 18.5 points and 5.0 assists in 21 games after the All-Star break last season. 

D’Angelo Russell 2017 Preseason Full Highlights – 17 PPG, 2017-18 MIP!

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Jeremy Lin missed most of last season with injuries, but if people become more enamored with his play than they are his hair, that means he’s back on track to being the player who averaged 15 points, five rebounds and five assist per game last year.

Keep your eyes on Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. He’s already an elite defensive player and if he can expand his offensive skill set, he’ll be one of Brooklyn’s more dynamic talents. 

New York Knicks – Carmelo Anthony is now gone and the Knicks are staring at a fifth straight losing season. They acquired Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott in the Anthony trade, selected French point guard Frank Ntilikina with their lottery pick and signed restricted free agent Tim Hardaway, Jr., from the Atlanta Hawks for his second stint with the franchise. 

Longtime NBA executive Scott Perry is the new general manager, and to say he inherited a mess from Phil Jackson’s woeful front office tenure would be putting it mildly. The one ray of hope in Madison Square Garden this year will be the 22 year old unicorn Kristaps Porzingis. 

He’s already one of the league’s best players after averaging 18.1 points and 7.2 rebounds per game in only his second season and was the only NBA player to have at least 1,100 points, 450 rebounds, 125 blocked shots and 100 three-pointers last year.

Kristaps Porzingis 2016-17 Season Offensive & Defensive Compilation Part1 – PorzinGOD!

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The Knicks are in rebuilding mode, but Porzingis will be worth the price of admission. Doug McDermott will get his chance to prove that he can fill up the scoring sheet, Hardaway Jr. has improved and Kanter gets it done in the paint. 

The 19-year-old Ntilikina is the point guard of the future, and New York fans will anxiously look for signs that Jackson actually did something positive on his way out the door. 

CENTRAL DIVISION

Cleveland Cavaliers – The Cavs are shooting for their fourth straight NBA Finals appearance and the goal remains to meet back up with the Golden State Warriors with the championship on the line later next summer. 

To say that this has been an offseason of change in Cleveland would be an understatement, but this just might be the deepest Cavs team that LeBron has ever played on. Veteran free agents Jose Calderon, Jeff Green and Derrick Rose are now in the mix along with Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder and Ante Zizic, who came in the Kyrie Irving trade to Boston. They also signed LeBron’s favorite running buddy Dwyane Wade. 

Cleveland could field a very potent second unit this year once they settle the rotations when Thomas returns from injury. LeBron is still the best player in the world, Rose is coming off a season that saw him average 18 points, four assists and four boards and Wade, who could flourish coming off the bench eventually, put up similar numbers to Rose last year in Chicago.

LeBron James’ VERY BEST Plays of 2016-17: Regular Season & Playoffs!

Check out the LeBron “The King” James’ best plays from the 2016-2017 regular season and Playoffs!

Kevin Love’s contributions to Cleveland’s success have been overshadowed by LeBron and Kyrie’s exploits over the last few years, but don’t let that fool you. Love, who averaged a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds per game, is one of the best players in the NBA. 

Acquiring Crowder in the Kyrie trade was a huge move. Bringing him in off the bench to spell Love and Tristan Thompson will give opposing coaches headaches. And when Thomas returns to full health, LeBron will have a deadly arsenal of weapons at his disposal. 

Cleveland made 1,067 three-pointers last season, the third-highest total in NBA history. Houston converted an NBA-record 1,181 three-pointers last year, and Golden State ranks second all time with 1,077 threes in 2015-16. 

The regular season will be a lab for head coach Tyronn Lue to do some experimenting. But when the postseason comes, this rendition of the Cavs will be LeBron’s most dangerous.

Milwaukee Bucks – Giannis Antetokounmpo, aka The Greek Freak, became the youngest player ever to lead his team in scoring, assists, rebounds, blocked shots and steals last year. Only five players in NBA history have ever accomplished the feat.  The only others to do so are Dave Cowens (1977-78), Scottie Pippen (1994-95), Kevin Garnett (2002-03) and LeBron James (2008-09).

Starting this year, and for the foreseeable future, you can pencil Antetokounmpo in as a bonafied MVP candidate. 

Giannis Antetokounmpo’s INSANE 2017 Regular Season Mixtape!

Milwaukee Bucks Superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo is molding himself into a versatile NBA Superstar, leading the Bucks in all categories this year! Come watch his season highlights in this crazy NBA Mixtape!

The Bucks had to do without two of their three best players last year in Khris Middleton and Jabari Parker and they still won 42 games. Middleton averaged 14.7 points and 3.4 assists while shooting 43.3 percent from deep while appearing in 29 games after recovering from surgery to repair a torn hamstring. Parker, only 22 years old, is expected to be back around the All-Star break this year after recuperating from the knee injury that derailed a promising start to last season where he averaged 20.1 points on 49.0 percent shooting from the field and banged in 36.5% of his 3-point shots in 51 games.  

For the past couple of years, the Bucks were known as a young team with a bright future. If Middleton and Parker can regain their footing, and with Antetokounmpo continuing his rise as one of the most incredible young talents the game has ever seen, the future will begin now for head coach Jason Kidd’s talented unit. 

Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, Thon Maker, Tony Snell, Greg Monroe and Matthew Dellavedova bring some depth and talent to a team that has legit aspirations of advancing to the conference semifinals.

Indiana Pacers – The Paul George era is now over as the team begins to build around blossoming big man Myles Turner. 

CJ Miles, Monta Ellis and Jeff Teague have moved on as well, and Indy added TJ Leaf in the draft, Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis and Corey Joseph via trades, and Darren Collison and Bojan Bogdanovic via free agency. 

Myles Turner Full Highlights 2016.10.26 vs Mavs – 30 Pts, 16 Rebs, 4 Blks!

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This year will center around the development of Turner, and Oladipo and Sabonis, now free to showcase what they can do without having to beg Russell Westbrook for the ball like they did in OKC, should help in that endeavor. 

Turner averaged 14.5 points, 7.3 boards and 2.1 blocks per game last season, becoming only the second player in franchise history to average at least 14.0 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in his second season. He shares the distinction with Herb Williams, who averaged 16.9 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks in the 1982-83 season.

Making the playoffs will be a reach, but the 21-year-old Turner’s growth and development this year will be paramount.

Detroit Pistons – Detroit finished at 37-45 last year and missed the playoffs in a season where the expectations were much higher. 

Aron Baynes, Marcus Morris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope have moved on, and the franchise added Avery Bradley via trade, Luke Kennard in the draft, and Langston Galloway and Anthony Tolliver through free agency. 

But the biggest move the Pistons made was leaving Auburn Hills to play in downtown Detroit for the first time in 40 years. 

2016 All-Star Top 10: Andre Drummond

Watch the very best plays from Eastern Conference All-Star Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons. About the NBA: The NBA is the premier professional basketball league in the United States and Canada.

Big man Andre Drummond is only 24 years old, but it’s time for him to make the jump from being a good player to being a dominant force on a nightly basis. He’s led the NBA in total offensive rebounds in each of the last four seasons, the first player with a four-year streak since Dennis Rodman did it from 1990-94.

Bradley is an excellent backcourt addition, and Tobias Harris and Stanley Johnson should be ready to take the next steps in their development. A 42-42 season should be considered a success in Motown this year.

Chicago Bulls – The Bulls will look entirely different this year after having parted ways with Jimmy Butler, Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. By entirely different, I mean they’ll be pretty bad. 

The draft night trade of Butler to Minnesota yielded point guard Kris Dunn, swing man Zach LaVine and the No. 7 pick, which was used to select 7-foot shooter extraordinaire Lauri Markkanen out of the University of Arizona. 

Lauri Markkanen Full Highlights 2017.10.10 at Cavs – 18 Pts, 15 in 4th Quarter!

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Markkanen will be the second player from Finland to ever play in the NBA, joining Hanno Mttl, who spent two seasons with Atlanta from 2000 to 2002.

This year will be all about maximizing their chances at a high lottery pick in the next draft. Only the most ardent of Bulls fans will enjoy watching them this year. How bad have things gotten? Paul Zipser is slated to play a key role in the rotation.

SOUTHEAST DIVISION

Washington Wizards – John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter Jr. and the Washington Wizards have now elevated to elite status in the east and could provide the stiffest challenge to the Cavs and the Celtics for conference supremacy. The trio is in their prime and has to be considered a dark house title contender.

The Wiz were one win away from positing its first 50-win season since being renamed the Wizards and reached the Eastern Conference semifinals last year. Porter was outstanding last year and had the best season of his young career, youngster Kelly Oubre showed flashes as a defensive stalwart, Wall had another All-Star season on both ends of the floor and Beal was only the third player, alongside Kyrie Irving and Steph Curry, to shoot 40 percent on threes while averaging at least 23 points. 

John Wall’s INSANE 2016-2017 NBA MIXTAPE

Check out the Wizard that is John Wall, in this INSANE mixape, showing off his best crossovers, dimes, dunks and clutch plays! Subscribe to the NBA: http://bit.ly/2rCglzY For news, stories, highlights and more, go to our official website at http://www.nba.com Get NBA LEAGUE PASS: http://www.nba.com/leaguepass

Washington came on strong down the stretch last year, finishing 27-14. They won their first division title since 1978-79 and became the first team in NBA history to reach 49 victories after starting a season 2-8.

Wall is one of the league’s best players, regardless of position, Beal is a budding All-Star, Marcin Gortat continues to be “The Polish Hammer” whose impact stretches far beyond the stat sheet and Markieff Morris brings a toughness that makes them formidable. 

A 50-win campaign, a deep playoff run and challenging Boston for the right to knuckle up against LeBron and the Cavs for a shot at the Finals is a realistic expectation in D.C. this year.

Charlotte Hornets – If Dwight Howard can take advantage of his final opportunity for relevance, the Hornets have a chance to climb back into the playoffs. They took a step backwards last year by winning only 36 games and missing out on the postseason. But this year should be different. 

If rookie guard Malik Monk can score the ball with the ease that he did at Kentucky, the backcourt pairing of him and Kemba Walker will be very fun to watch. Jeremy Lamb quietly averaged career highs last year with 9.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will probably never develop into an offensive machine, but his energy and defense makes an impact. 

Charlotte has committed the fewest turnovers in the NBA in each of Steve Cliffords four seasons as head coach, so we know that they’ll take care of the ball.

Kemba Walker East All-Star Reserve | 2017 Top 10

Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Hornets has been selected an All-Star reserve check out his Top 10 Plays of the season so far!

Walker brings it every night and few teams depend on one player, especially one so small in stature, in the way that Charlotte leans on him. He averaged 23 points, six assists and four rebounds per game and is the squad’s unquestioned leader and heartbeat. Nicolas Batum can make plays for others and get buckets, Marvin Williams brings some dependable versatility, Cody Zeller is an excellent rotation player coming off the bench and Frank “The Tank” Kaminsky is a valuable asset as a 7-footer with a deadly outside stroke. 

People can clown Howard all they want to, but even though he’s not the dominant force that he once was, he’s still a double-double machine and an excellent interior defensive presence. In a wide open Eastern Conference, expect the Hornets to be back in the postseason mix.

Atlanta Hawks – It wasn’t that long ago that the Hawks could boast a 60-win team that played a beautiful brand of Spurs-like basketball. They enjoyed a ten-year stretch of consecutive playoff appearances, the longest streak in the Eastern Conference and the second-longest in the NBA behind San Antonios 20 seasons. But those days are now a thing of the past. 

Dennis Schroder Full Highlights 2017 ECR1 Game 3 vs Wizards – 27 Pts, 9 Assists!

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Dennis Schroder averaged 17.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game and he’ll take the next step this year into becoming a certified stud at the point. But after that, the Hawks will be simply searching for answers and building towards the future.

Miami Heat – The Heat got off to a terrible 11-30 start last year, but turned it around to finish on an impressive 30-11 run. They were the first team in NBA history to have been at least 19 games under .500 at one point to go on and reach the .500 mark that same season. They don’t have a true superstar, but they do have some very good players that work well with one another. 

Kelly Olynyk came over via free agency and should be an excellent fit as a big man who makes close to 40% of his three’s. He’s a ruthless competitor who should complement Hassan Whiteside very well. Whiteside led the league with 14.1 rebounds per game last season while also averaging 17 points and 2.1 blocks and he’ll make his first All-Star appearance this year.

Hassan Whiteside’s Unlikely Journey to NBA Stardom | Close Range | GQ

GQ gets up close and personal with Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside. CONNECT WITH GQ Web: http://gqm.ag/GQVIDE0S Twitter: http://gqm.ag/gqTWITTER Facebook: http://gqm.ag/gqFACEBOOK Google+: http://gqm.ag/gqGOOGLEPLUS Instagram: http://gqm.ag/gqINSTAGRAM Pinterest: http://gqm.ag/gqPINTEREST Tumblr: http://gqm.ag/gqTUMBLR The Scene: http://gqm.ag/gqTHESCENE ABOUT GQ For more than 50 years, GQ has been the premier men’s magazine, providing definitive coverage of style, culture, politics and more.

Goran Dragic’s brilliance gets lost in the sauce, but he’s one of the NBA’s best point guards. Justise Winslow is an outstanding, rugged and fearless defender, Dion Waiters is a bucket-machine at shooting guard and Whiteside is a marvel as a dominant scorer, rebounder and rim protector. And keep your eyes on rookie big man Bam Adebayo, who is going to turn heads this year.

Orlando Magic – The Magic are suffering through their longest playoff drought in franchise history, and don’t expect that to change this year. 

Other than highlights of Aaron Gordon dunks, there’s not much to see here other than the development of Jonathan Isaac, the long, athletic and dynamic rookie out of Florida State who could blossom into an elite talent one day.

Aaron Gordon Highlights 2017.10.10 at Spurs – 27 Pts, 11 Rebs!

Some FGs are missing since this game wasn’t fully televised. –Take your ball handling to the next level with the BALL HOG GLOVES – http://tiny.cc/DawkGloves –Like And Subscribe For More! Follow me on Twitter – https://twitter.com/DawkinsMTA Boxscore – http://www.espn.com/nba/boxscore?gameId=400978794 DISCLAIMER – All clips property of the NBA.

In three seasons with Orlando, point guard Elfrid Payton has recorded eight of the franchises 28 all-time triple-doubles. He is the only player with more than three triple-doubles as a member of the Magic. This will be a pivotal season for him to prove that he’s ready to lead the team into the future, and for Gordon to assert himself as more than simply a highlight reel dunker.

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