The way I see it, Miami, New York, Indiana, Brooklyn and Chicago are locks to make the playoffs for the next few years. That leaves three spots for Atlanta, Boston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland, and Washington. I’m pretending Orlando and Charlotte don’t exist, and rightfully so.
Of this second tier of playoff contenders, I think Boston will go in a full-scale rebuild with Avery Bradley and Rondo as the core, so let’s kick them out. Let’s also presume that the Josh Smith and Jeff Teague leave, and Al Horford can’t carry the load on his own. That’s done with the Hawks. I’ll go ahead and say that the Wizards are still a couple years and few moves away from being a playoff team, of course this assumes John Wall doesn’t completely explode. In the ring still remain Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland, and Toronto. I say Milwaukee stays ahead of the Raptors on account of a decent back-court, an improving front line, and overall experience. So now we got a battle for two playoff spots between Philly, Detroit, Cleveland, and Toronto.
I’m contemplating Joe Dumars either wasting his cap space on over-rated free agents, or simply not being able to find anyone to play in Detroit, thus leaving the Pistons marginally better or the same. Now it’s down to two spots and three teams: Philly, Cleveland, and Toronto. I like the core of Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, and Anderson Varejao. They’re going to add someone in the draft this year and Irving will continue to significantly improve. I think they’re better than the Raptors so give them one playoff spot. It’s now a showdown between Philly and Toronto, and I think the Raptors are the better team. Jrue Holiday is a nice piece, but overall, the Raptors have better talent and should’ve finished ahead of Philly this year. They didn’t and will next year. There’s your playoff team.