1. CAVALIERS: The reigning NBA champs remain the class of the conference and should rule the East again as long as LeBron James is healthy and leading them.
2. CELTICS: They continue to grow and improve under coach Brad Stevens. After winning 48 games last season and adding Al Horford in free agency, Boston should take another step.
3. RAPTORS: They made the conference finals and re-signed DeMar DeRozan, so familiarity should breed continued success. A healthy DeMarre Carroll, who played 26 games last year, should help defensively.
4. PACERS: Paul George is an elite player and the Pacers brought in some reinforcements in Jeff Teague, Al Jefferson, and Thaddeus Young. They should be near the top in the East.
5. HAWKS: They moved Jeff Teague to let Dennis Schroder run things and signed Dwight Howard to replace Horford. They could be better defensively but they’re still not championship material.
6. BULLS: Dwyane Wade is back home in Chicago and motivated to win. With Wade, Rajon Rondo and Jimmy Butler together, the Bulls should be pretty interesting and back in the playoffs.
7. HORNETS: They lost main players from last season in Jeremy Lin and Courtney Lee, but getting Michael Kidd-Gilchrist back after he played seven games should give Charlotte a boost.
8. WIZARDS: Their season hinges upon John Wall and Bradley Beal staying healthy and getting along. If they can stay on the court and co-exist, they should be in the playoff hunt.
9. KNICKS: Their top six players are good enough for them to get into the playoffs but they need to stay out of the trainer’s room and gel quickly for it to happen.
10. PISTONS: Stan Van Gundy the executive built a playoff team last year and now Van Gundy the coach must get them to stay afloat without point guard Reggie Jackson for about six weeks.
11. MAGIC: Give new coach Frank Vogel some time. He doesn’t have a playoff roster but he’ll get Orlando to play hard and defend, especially with ex-Thunder forward Serge Ibaka’s help.
12. BUCKS: Losing Khris Middleton to a torn hamstring put a damper on their season, but Giannis Antetokounmpo growing as a player and playing point guard is good for their future.
13. HEAT: It’s a new era with Wade gone and Chris Bosh unable to play. It’s Hassan Whiteside’s and Justise Winslow’s show, so Miami will defend but who will score?
14. NETS: They will play hard for Huntington’s Kenny Atkinson and they could be more competitive than expected if Brook Lopez and Jeremy Lin remain healthy. But they’re rebuilding.
15. 76ERS: They’ll be better, but losing Ben Simmons indefinitely puts a damper on their season. They have too many big men and a shortage of point guards when the league is going smaller.