The Boston Celtics currently sit at 19-4 and are 3.5 games ahead of the Detroit Pistons (14-6) in the Eastern Conference. With this, it seems that Boston has already proven themselves good enough to control the Eastern Conference and appear in their first NBA Finals since 2010. Although this is true, there are some teams that are serious threats to Boston’s playoff run and may end up beating them.
Here are the top competitors so far that can challenge the Celtics in the Eastern Conference.
1. Philadelphia 76ers: I have to say, it’s odd to see the Sixers’ organization land itself in an article of positivity, such as this. Regardless, they’re still here, and they’re here to potentially take the crown from the C’s. What they have accomplished in the offseason, in terms of roster structure has been insane. It’s not as much of signing new players, but the improvements and the injury-free season of others that have propelled their aspirations akin to the Allen Iverson/Raja Bell/Dikembe Mutumbo squad that swept through the City of Brotherly Love in the early 2000’s.
Now to the present. This new-and-improved 76ers roster has been monumental to the city of Philadelphia, whose last great showing was the 2013 season opener, where Michael Carter-Williams led the team to a victory versus the Miami Heat’s Big 3. This 2017 Sixers roster outdoes that by far, and could out-duel the 2001 team in the years to come. Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Robert Covington, and Markelle Fultz have slowly become one of the NBA’s most electric tandems.
Covington and Saric have improved across the board, whereas both Simmons and Embiid have slowly gotten healthier for this season, plus Markelle Fultz is the unproven young talent out of Washington, ready to take over the PG spot for years to come.
Their matchups versus Boston in the future will be one of the most exciting ones to look forward to. The Irving vs. Fultz, Embiid vs. Horford, and Simmons vs Brown/Tatum will be comparable to the Paul George/LeBron James matchup of the 2010’s. It’ll be an edge-of-your-seat, eyes glued to the TV matchup of the next couple of years.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers: Well, I had t0 put the Cavaliers on this list, right? With the dynamic tandem of LeBron James, Kevin Love, Isaiah Thomas, and Dwayne Wade, it’ll be hard to stop this group once IT gets healthy again. The Cavs have now won 10 in a row and sit third in the Eastern Conference. Their early season struggles were a sign for many that the Eastern Conference Dynasty was fading, and fast. But later, LeBron and Company proved why they’re not ready to leave just yet.
The problem for Boston now is trying to stop James. It’s a pretty fair matchup besides this; the Celtics defense is the best in the NBA, so finding defenders is not a problem for them here. However, who is going to stop LeBron? No one on Boston’s roster can effectively guard ‘The King’ in a one-on-one matchup. It’s cheesy to say that LeBron is the X-Factor, as everyone has been saying that since 2003, but it’s true.
With Cleveland currently riding a hot streak, it’s clear that Cleveland isn’t ready to go just yet. They’re ready to face Boston for their place in the NBA Finals once again.
3. Detroit Pistons: At the moment, the Pistons are up next to take the Eastern Conference title and find themselves in the NBA Finals for the first time since their 2005 campaign.
Their team hasn’t changed that much; they still have Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond. The big changes in the Pistons’ success so far, though, has been split between Avery Bradley and Tobias Harris. Harris may as well be the best player in the Motor City; averaging 19.1 points, 5.4 rebounds per game, while shooting 47.1 percent from behind the arc. Bradley, on the other hand, is averaging 16.6 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 2.1 assists, while shooting 43 percent from three. These two players, with the added veterans (Drummond and Jackson), make them a dangerous threat in the playoffs and to Boston’s 2017-2018 campaign.