First Week Finals: Way too early picks for the NBA’s next Eastern Conference champ

Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, NBA, Philadelphia 76ers
NBA

Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

First Week Finals separates the NBA’s contenders from the pretenders after the first week of every month of the season.

Yes, technically it is not the first week after the first month of the 2020-21 NBA campaign, but it’s never too early to jump into the predictive time machine to see which teams have the most legitimate shots at the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Being only a few weeks into the start of NBA season after the quickest turnaround in league history; and with most teams using the full capacities of their rosters and early rest for their superstars to varying degrees, true evaluations are hard to come by.

Add in that many of the NBA’s top-seeded teams in both the Eastern and Western Conferences are dealing with significant roster shake-ups and/or new coaching philosophies, making predictions of the Finals participants now is really just a fool’s errand. But since I have very little shame in that regard, please continue reading. With the addition of new pieces and shedding of important ones from last year, there will be learning curves to ride with respect to rotation and chemistry issues that take indefinite amounts of time to work themselves out. Sometimes they never do as the NBA bubble’s most compelling flame-out, the Los Angeles Clippers might attest to.

Bearing all this in mind, the first installment of this season-long series will look at the top four prospects from each conference and examine some of the strengths that make them so promising; as well as some issues that could prove fatal to these teams’ title aspirations. These are not power rankings, so records are not the be-all factor. These are merely projections as to which teams have the best chances to reach the Finals, a few reasons why and will be subject to change as their circumstances do. First, we look to those rising in the East, where it’s the usual suspects and an obvious newcomer; before we head West in the next segment to see which teams could remain standing after the sun sets on a shortened and strange, 72-game regular season NBA sojourn.

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