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Saturday, 19 December 2020

The Raptors Files Eastern Conference NBA Playoff Review 2020 - 2021 #RPTZFLZ

    The competition ramps up in the east this season, but it doesn't necessarily mean the outcome will be different.  

1)  Brooklyn Nets: Back in the mix, just like that.  A new coach and the healthy return of two of the league's top ten players means the east is a little more competitive.
     The Good?: While they're getting back two superstars, the team was able to make it to the first round of the playoffs without them and that core remains the same.
     The Bad?: Their superstar players are two of the most dramatic players in the league off the court.  It shouldn't be too long before the media has them turning on either one another or their team or their coach or the fans or the ownership, etc.
     The X-Factor: Steve Nash is going to have to become really good really quick at coaching two players who've played under the best of them.  The key is going to be Steve Nash gaining their respect immediately.

2)  Miami Heat: There's something about playing in a championship series that makes you feel invincible.  I don't know for sure because I've never played in one but the Miami Heat have and I have a feeling that the desire to get back still subsides.
     They defied the odds set out ahead of them with confidence and a lot of attitude only a couple of months ago, so that fire should still be burning when they hit the court again next week.
     What's Good?: The Heat were swinging on their way down against the Lakers, which was a good sign that the fight in them never died so they should be entering this season feeling like the job isn't done yet like they've got something to prove.
     What's Bad?: They've relied on their defense to carry them more often than not and that's not gonna change this season.  It would be really good for them to add a scoring heavyweight or even middleweight.  That could come from within the team but it would have to be someone with consistent physicality scoring both inside and outside.
      The X-Factor: This team goes as far as Bam Adebayo's three-point shot takes them.

3)  Milwaukee Bucks: So, they got their guy and the pressure's off on that end, now all they gotta do is find a way to get to the NBA finals.
     What's Good?: Having a sense of future direction.  I don't know if it makes them any more attractive as a free agent destination but it lays a good foundation for future draftees who blow up in Milwaukee and are concerned about whether or not the team is willing to invest in their talents.
      What's Bad?: The east continues to improve around them and the east has the majority of big market teams.  It won't be long before the likes of the Knicks, Bulls, Hawks, Pistons, and 76ers start loading up with multiple superstars of their own.  In the meantime, the Brooklyn Nets have started the process meaning the Bucks' first-place finish from last season, is in jeopardy.
       The X-Factor: DiVincenzo, Connaughton, and Middleton.  There has to be some growth with that group of players.  Middleton hit a bit of a slump and DiVincenzo suffered an injury, but though not long, they've played together a couple of seasons, they've gotta show some growth in performance.

4)  Boston Celtics: Finally getting over the hump of the second round was an achievement for this young team but they were hungry for more.
     What's Good?: Now that the keys have been fully handed over to Jayson Tatum, the offense should be a bit tighter and focused.  And Jalen Brown blossomed into a reliable second scoring option during their time in the bubble, that should be able to help them draw some help in the next offseason session.
     What's Bad?: Having to start the season without Kemba Walker.
      The X-Factor:  Jeff Teague and Tristan Thompson will be relied on to bring playoff experience to this young core led squad.  Thompson brings added physicality to a team that was roughed up a bit by the Miami Heat.  Should they meet again, they're a bit more prepared for the match.

5)  Philadelphia 76ers: About to begin a season many are viewing as a last opportunity to win it all before the "process" gets a re-evaluation.
     What's Good?: Added depth.  Not superstar depth but shooting and support have been addressed, and it should translate to a visit to at least an eastern conference visit.
     What's Bad?: Ben Simmons' name brought up in trade talks.  Whether true or not, his name was put out there.
     The X-Factor: The potential change on the horizon.  Whether for the better or the worse.

6)  Toronto Raptors: A bit younger and raw and maybe even, a bit more vulnerable.
     What's Good?: Malachi Flynn.
     What's Bad?:  Losing Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol, at the moment it is anyway.  Rebounding was always a sore point with the Raptors and now that they have young bigs who haven't had a whole summer and preseason to prepare, that fact is going to be made all the more glaring.  They've lost a lot of physicality.
      The X-Factor: OG Anunoby has really gotta show up this season.  He's most likely going to be a starter and his production as the second guy on most nights is going to be more essential than it's ever been.

7)  Indiana Pacers: A great basketball culture only gets better.
     What's Good?: A new coach and a slight tweaking of an already solid culture, besides getting two of their best players back.
     What's Bad?:  They still come up a bit short when it comes to having go-to guys.  It's great in the regular season but it usually catches up to them in the playoffs and that most likely isn't going to change much this season.
     The X-Factor: Health.  If Sabonis and or Oladipo get hurt for an extended length of time, their playoff hopes will quickly be dashed.

8)  Atlanta Hawks: Potential gives way to great expectations for the most up and coming team this season.
     What's Good?: The addition of playoff experienced players to mix with the young, and athletically dynamic young core should convert to success.  Trae Young is a budding star in the making.  He's a great overall point guard who now has a lot less of a load on his shoulders with the acquisition of Bogdanovic and Gallinari.
      What's Bad?: They're going to have to develop a better defensive mentality, a point of emphasis this season.  If they can become as good at that as they are on offense, you might be looking at one of the top teams in the east.
      The X-Factor: Cam Reddish was the one time top prospect of the 2019 NBA draft.  He's been good, this season he's going to need to be great.


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