Before we dive into the top five projected defenses in the Eastern Conference this year, credit must be given where credit is due. Honorable mentions will be handed out to the teams of New York, that’s right, teams plural. Far more than five teams will be covered here but it is necessary with the added defensive depth to each.
Honorable Mentions: New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets
In my opinion, the Knicks should be starting Frank Nitty at point. Frank has the ability to switch onto any match-up and is a certified clamp god. Mitchell Robinson, Marcus Morris, Bobby Portis, and big ticket signee Julius Randall are all certified clamp gods. While this lineup may be a little devoid of perimeter shooting, Nitty can get it going from deep, and the best offense is a good defense. Kevin Knox can slide into the SG position and bring length while Alonzo Trier can bring buckets.
As for the Nets. They signed a big problem in David Nwaba, he’ll see increased playing time in the absence of Kevin Durant and he’ll prove why he is a force to be reckoned with. With DeAndre Jordan and Jarret Allen in the front court, there will be no relief at the rim. Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert provide versatility to the court as Kyrie’s defense gets better year after year. Once KD gets back, this will be a very dangerous team.
5. Detroit Pistons:
The Pistons bolstered their roster in the off-season. Aside from adding two former MVPs in Michael Beasley and Derrick Rose, they’re still very much the hard-nosed team they were last year lead by Dwane Casey. Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond make things difficult on the interior flanked by Markieff Morris. The next Klay Thompson in Svi Mykhailiuk and Luke Kennard will provide depth on the wing. Reggie Jackson is a problem as always and look for Sekou Doumbouya to develop into a threat.
4. Miami Heat:
While the heat lost their most iconic player ever in living legend Dwayne Wade. They picked up his protege in Jimmy Butler. Wade hinted at a return only if Jimmy went to the Heat, it won’t happen this year, he signed too many jerseys, but be on the lookout next year for a return for the ages. Jimmy Butler is a top dog in the league when it comes to defense. Don’t sleep on his ability to carry this team that came oh so close to the playoffs on the back end of D Wade’s last season. He might be able to get them over that hump, but don’t forget that he put a bunch of bench players on his back to bust the entire Minnesota Timberwolves organization fashionably. The Miami Heat are still under the regime of Eric Spoelstra and Pat Riley.
4. Toronto Raptors:
The Raptors lost out on the biggest free agent of the offseason in their Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard (along with Danny Green). However, they retained the true Finals MVP who managed to lock down Steph Curry in Fred Vanfleet. Him and Lowry will be little big problems for any opposing back court. The ever so versatile Most Improved Player Pascal Siakam is coming back and looks to even further improve upon his game. Marc Gasol will also be anchoring the middle and is not a guy opponents want to run into trying to get to the rim.
3. Milwaukee Bucks:
It should first be noted that the Bucks lost Malcolm Brogdon. It should also be noted that they still have MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. Giannis’ flaws were exposed by clamp-master Kawhi Leonard in the Eastern Conference Finals, and he won’t let that happen again. Giannis has made strides each year in his career, and I don’t expect that to change. Outside from working on a bit of a midrange game. Expect Giannis to take his defensive game to the next level and make a seriously serious argument for defensive player of the year (DPOY). Another problem, Eric Bledsoe, is notorious for giving opposing point guards a hard time when they have to go up against him. Swiss army snipers Kris Middleton and Kyle Korver will also be handfuls for opponents.
2. Inidiana Pacers:
The Pacers were the top defensive rated team a year ago so don’t expect too much to change on that front. They allowed the fewest PPG even while missing their star and best defender Victor Oladipo for half the season. The amazing man that is Victor Oladipo needs to be covered more in depth as he held the steals title his last healthy season while winning the Most Improved Player award, and he inspires and drives his teammates to do the same. Vic gets his teammates to buy in and dog with him, how else do you think they remained so adamant on dogging even after he was gone? Their 104.7 PPG was the fewest in the league and while they lost Thaddeus Young and Bojan Bogdonovic. They gained TJ Warren and will be gaining back Oladipo. Blocks leader Myles Turner will be returning alongside six man of the year candidate Domantas Sabonis who will benefit from seeing starting time. The Pacer’s Bench is still there and while they’ll miss Darren Collison to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Dipo can run point and create problems for any back court.
1: Philadelphia 76ers:
The 76ers lost an all-defensive player in Jimmy Butler, But gained a power house in Al Horford. While he can’t guard LeBron, he can create problems on switches from the center to the power forward position. A problematic set could be running Joel Embiid out at the four and having Al Horford at the Center. Embiid is like Hakeem, his footwork is otherworldly for a seven-footer and is extremely mobile. Oppositions would have an extremely hard time matching up against that. That’s not where it stops. Josh Richardson is a new addition in exchange for Jimmy Butler, who creates problems on and off the ball and on the defensive side. Mike Scott is returning and they have added multi-tool man Jonathan Simmons who will make this team very deep with talent. Embiid can look to have an MVP year and even chase the DPOY, while his counterpart Ben Simmons looks to get a jump shot, he is already a major threat on the defensive end. The Sixers will be able to switch everything and are the last team in the east teams will want to try and score on.
An OG OJ Joint