It’s time to be cliche as the NBA is set to start in less than a month. All rankings below reflect rosters as of December 4, 2020. Free agency, draft picks, and re-signings are considered. All hail the first power ranking of the NBA Eastern Conference of the 2020-2021 Season.
In case you missed any of the reported signings, trades, and player movement you can track that here with our 2020 Off-Season Tracker!
Check out the Shoot or Pass Crew: 2020 NBA Free Agency Winner & Losers
- Miami Heat
Pat Riley is gearing up for a shot in the Giannis Antetokounmpo sweepstakes. Signing Avery Bradley and Maurice Harkless to short-term deals is a sign. The defending Eastern Conference Champions may have lost a solid defender and shooter in Jae Crowder to the Phoenix Suns but have no fear. Well, other teams in the East should fear them as the undisputed leaders in the East.
- Brooklyn Nets
This is the year! The Brooklyn Nets will be heavily favored to win the East. Can they be in the top spot? Surely, but since we’re only in the off-season I’ll give the nod to the Miami Heat. The biggest question is seeing how well this team meshes and offensively, that shouldn’t be an issue with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. The first time Head Coach Steve Nash backed by Mike D’Antoni also helps solidify that notion.
- Milwaukee Bucks
The biggest question coming into the short off-season is how much better can the Bucks get? Insert Jrue Holiday instead of Eric Bledsoe and I call that an upgrade. Also, the Bucks bolstered up their bench by signing veterans D.J. Augustin and Bobby Portis. However, in my opinion, we’re still going to question can this team get the job done in the playoffs? Time will tell but looking better than last year already.
- Boston Celtics
If you’re a Boston Celtic fan and feeling like the current roster is better then, I need to find out how?! Alright, I agree to let Gordon Hayward opt-out saves some cap space in the near future. Signing Tristian Thompson and Jeff Teague isn’t going to put you over the hump in an Eastern Conference where teams contending are getting better (on paper at least).
- Toronto Raptors
Signing Fred VanVleet to a decent deal and not committing to a multi-year deal with Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol give you a little bit more flexibility next off-season as well. The VanVleet deal does have a bit of a regression in year two which enables the Raptors to have a bit more cap space flexibility next-offseason as well. The 2019 Champions should still be considered as a contender out East. However, I’ll give the Celtics the one-up here as the Raptors might have to lean more on Pascal Siakam this season.
- Philadelphia 76ers
I know, you’re probably asking where is the Indiana Pacers at this point. Well quite frankly, I’m investing a bit of faith back into the 76ers. Bad idea right? I’ll take the risk this early in the off-season versus later. I like the signings of more shooters in Seth Curry and Danny Green you got to like the upgrades there. Curry can be a playmaker and the 76ers were in dire need of a legit point guard. Curry’s stock went up after his performance in the first round of last year’s Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers series. This surely is an upgrade at the point guard position as some of you might not remember who stepped in for Ben Simmons. (Hint: Shake Milton?)
- Indiana Pacers
Here we are! The Pacers stayed pretty quiet during the free agency period at this point. Besides re-signing Justin Holiday the roster stays put. See Pacer fans, this is why the 76ers have that slight bump this early. Will the Pacers make some trades soon? Time will tell but for now but a new coach and the same roster amongst others improving see the Pacers at 7th in the East at best for now.
- Atlanta Hawks
Let’s review this free agency for the Hawks. They locked in Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanović, and convinced Rajon Rondo to come to mentor Trae Young. Let’s not forget the roster includes John Collins and Clint Capela. Defensively, can this keep up? I’m not sure yet hence the highest ceiling for Atlanta is going to be battling for the bottom of the East last couple of playoff spots. If anything they’ve had the biggest turnaround in the East so far off of free agency alone.
- Washington Wizards
Just when you thought the Wizards were probably doomed with John Wall and his uncertainty of play they saved themselves. What I consider a big upgrade in Russell Westbrook now Washington fans can be optimistic about the playoffs. Still, a lot of variables to be determined but the Wizards are a better team with this trade now. Rui Hachimura is emerging as a rookie averaging 13.5 points per game, 6.1 rebounds per game, shooting 47-percent from the field on 30 minutes of play last season. For now, they’ll still compete with the bottom half of the East’s top 8 but that isn’t a bad thing.
- Orlando Magic
The East’s team that finishes 8th last season has a decent enough team to be considered as a team that can either decide to tank with young talent or competes for at best the 8th seed in the East. Which way will they go? For now, a healthy young roster that could overachieve under Head Coach Steve Clifford is the direction this team’s highest ceiling. The obvious move is allowing part-time starting point guard, D.J. Augustin to sign with Milwaukee. Orlando re-signs Michael Carter-Williams and hopefully, this points to Markelle Fultz’s increase of playing time and responsibility for this team. Their first-round pick in the 2020 draft Cole Anthony also will be competing for playing time at the guard spot next to Fultz, Carter-Williams, and Evan Fournier.
- Charlotte Hornets
Technically, the Hornets finished ahead of the Wizards last season. Here is the catch, the Wizards were invited to the seeding games in the bubble but the Hornets were not. Adding LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward is quite an interesting combo, right? For what it’s worth they do have some nice NBA City Edition jerseys this year.
- Chicago Bulls
Insert Billy Donovan and a team that also is similar to Indiana. A new coach with new hope. The biggest free agency singing? Garrett Temple? Well, the Bulls could be in tank mode and pending the rumors, it seems their biggest trade piece of Zack LaVine. If Chicago makes moves to tank further it would be trading for draft picks one could assume.
- Cleveland Cavaliers
A few young bright pieces and a solid lottery pick can keep Cavs fans a little optimistic this season. Collin Sexton returns and the hope is for his game taking the next step. Drafting Isaac Okoro was also a nice grab for the Cavs in the lottery round. This current team may be a bit of a lackluster in an already disappointing bottom of the East.
- Detroit Pistons
The Pistons come in with a few moves in free agency. Signing Jahlil Okafor, Jerami Grant, and Mason Plumlee to bolster up their frontcourt. Zhaire Smith and Wayne Ellington join the party in Detroit who finished with a miserable 20-wins last season. Can they get back Blake Griffin for a whole season? The best case available for Detroit is to overachieve and hopefully make the chase for the 8th seed competitive.
- New York Knicks
Yes, we are here at the bottom with the New York Knicks. I have to say this is probably one of the most recent off-seasons they have accomplished not screwing up. Guys like Montrezl Harrell, Serge Ibaka, and Austin Rivers weren’t paid max contract to diminish in New York. A lot of one-year deals no more than $5-6 million to Elfrid Payton, Alex Burks, and Nerlens Noel. I mean this is a clear sign of tanking plus maybe waiting for another off-season with cap space. However, the Knicks have struck out in the free agency game as Kevin Durant is across the city, and does Giannis surprise us and go to the Knicks? Stay tuned!