NBA: Predicting the final playoff seeding in the Eastern Conference

Charlotte Hornets Gordon Hayward (Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports)
Charlotte Hornets Gordon Hayward (Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Brooklyn Nets
NBA Brooklyn Nets Kevin Durant James Harden (Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports) /

The contenders of the Eastern Conference

The East has three viable title contenders this season, and it seems like the first time in a long time. The Philadelphia 76ers have an MVP candidate in Joel Embiid, another star in Ben Simmons, and a slew of good shooters and defenders. They’re currently first in the East at 37-17.

The Brooklyn Nets have possibly (more than likely) been the most publicized team of the season. They started the year with two of the NBA’s best offensive players in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. They acquired a third in James Harden, who has some MVP love coming his way as well. Despite injuries to all three of their stars and a stark lack of depth, they sit at second in the East at 37-17.

Lastly, there’s the Milwaukee Bucks. Kind of the forgotten team in the East, partially because of their collapses in the postseason for the past two years. They’ve got yet another MVP candidate in Giannis (the back-to-back winner, mind you), and two massively important contributors in Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. They have the star power and the depth to make it out of the East, but it has come down to coaching and scheme in the playoffs for them regardless of the talent. They sit at third in the East at 33-20.

None of the teams below these three will catch them, you can bet on that. But how will these three shake out? Honestly, I expect it to hold. The Nets are tied in the standings with the Sixers but with how cautious they’re being in terms of star injuries, I do not think they are prioritizing regular-season success nor final seeding. The Sixers are, however. Embiid is back from an extended hiatus and they have a moderately easier rest of season schedule than the Nets do.

The Bucks are too far back to catch up to either seed in my opinion, plus Giannis has been out for the past five games with no timetable to return. The top of the East will remain the way it looks right now.