EASTERN CONFERENCE

1. Cleveland

 

Kyrie Irving is gone to Boston, but LeBron remains and that will be enough to keep the Cavs one of the top challengers who probably still have no chance to beat the champs. Isaiah Thomas (injured), Dwyane Wade, Jae Crowder and Derrick Rose all come aboard.

 

2. Washington

The Wizards’ John Wall-Bradley Beal backcourt is about as good as it gets, but their season’s start and a remade bench must be better.

 

3. Milwaukee

 

The Bucks might lack depth and probably won’t get injured Jabari Parker back until February. They’ll be as good as blossoming superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo is great.

 

4. Boston

 

Yes, the Celtics added Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, but they also return just four players from the East’s best regular-season team. They’ll miss the underrated Avery Bradley and Crowder.

 

5. Miami

 

The Heat is much more the team that finished last season 30-11 after it started 11-30, but do guys like Dion Waiters still have so much to prove?

 

6. Toronto

 

Third in the East last season, the Raptors added C.J. Miles but will miss Patrick Patterson, P.J. Tucker and DeMarre Carroll.

 

7. Philadelphia

 

The 76ers can’t be lousy forever, right? With Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, they very soon won’t be. Reaching the playoffs is a good start. Move them higher if Embiid stays healthy.

 

8. Charlotte

 

Nicolas Batum’s season-starting injury could expose the Hornets’ lack of depth. They’ll rise a couple of notches if Steve Clifford can revive Dwight Howard in their reunion.

 

9. Detroit

 

Newcomer Avery Bradley was a great get, but the Pistons probably don’t make enough layups or three-pointers to reach the playoffs unless Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson really carry them.

 

10. Indiana

 

The Pacers begin rebuilding with Paul George gone to Oklahoma City by doing so around young center Myles Turner.

 

11. Orlando

 

There’s no indication, even with Frank Vogel coaching, that the Magic is ready to rise, but somebody’s still got to win 30-ish games in the East.

 

12. Brooklyn

Their first-round picks mortgaged by terrible trades, the Nets have done well to acquire young players D’Angelo Russell and Allen Crabbe, and they play hard.

 

13. New York

 

The Knicks are going nowhere for now, but the important thing is they’re doing so still with Kristaps Porzingis and without Phil Jackson. Will they regret drafting Frank Ntilkina over Dennis Smith Jr.?

 

14. Atlanta

 

The Hawks hitched their proverbial wagon to point guard Dennis Schroder over Jeff Teague two years ago, and he’s as good as it gets for a deconstructed Hawks team now without Paul Millsap.

 

15. Chicago

 

The Bulls will get their opportunity, but poor Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn, who both go from a Wolves team now ready to rise to this.