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NBA 2017-18 preview: Best teams in the East

Isaiah Thomas at Cleveland Cavaliers media day

Isaiah Thomas at Cleveland Cavaliers media day on September 25, 2017.

1. Cavaliers: LeBron James has led them to the Finals the last three years and they’re favored to get back there again. They got better and deeper after acquiring Isaiah Thomas, Dwyane Wade, Jae Crowder and Derrick Rose.

2. Celtics: They’re Cleveland’s top competition, and they improved offensively with the additions of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, but they will miss Avery Bradley and Crowder’s defensive versatility and ability.

3. Raptors: Kyle Lowry missed a quarter of last season and they won 51 games. Having Serge Ibaka from the start of the season this year, the Raptors should surpass that win total.

4. Wizards: Otto Porter Jr. has to produce and prove himself after signing a max deal. But if John Wall and Bradley Beal are healthy and can coexist under Scott Brooks, they should be a top-four seed again.

5. Bucks: An exciting young team that should continue to grow with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon. Milwaukee made the playoffs last season despite Khris Middleton sitting out 53 games and Jabari Parker 31.

6. Heat: Miami brought back most of the players from last year’s injury-riddled team that missed the playoffs by one game. If the Heat can stay healthy, Miami could be on the rise.

7. Pistons: They have solid veterans, but no stars or established go-to players so they’ve struggled putting it all together. Picking up Avery Bradley was an underrated move that could help get Detroit back in the playoffs.

8. Hornets: They should be in the mix for a playoff spot but they’ll need Kemba Walker to stay healthy and fresh, and others to step up with Nicolas Batum sidelined for two months.

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