The Eastern Conference is wide open for the first time in years. LeBron James is out of the East (and out of the playoffs) for the first time in 14 years, ensuring that a non-LeBron team will represent the East in the NBA Finals for the first time in nearly a decade. The top two seeds are currently tied 2-2 now are all playoff contenders and any one of them could win the Eastern Conference Finals.
The favorite to win the East as of now is the Milwaukee Bucks, who had the best record in the league during the regular season. The Bucks have the perfect blend of shooting, athleticism, length and height, and depth. Their bigs, Pau Gasol, Nicola Mirotic and Brook Lopez, can all play defense, rebound and stretch the floor with their shooting. Their guards and wings, Eric Bledsoe, Khris Middleton, and Malcolm Brogdon, bring the ball-handling and even more shooting. Finally, but most certainly not least, Milwaukee has “The Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo, a leading MVP candidate. He is the sole factor that takes this team from just a playoff team to a championship contender.
The Toronto Raptors are not far behind as the favorite. They have all the pieces that a championship caliber team needs to go all the way. The Raptors are scrappy, strong defensive team that plays their heart out, game in and game out. Their starting point guard, Kyle Lowry, is inconsistent, especially during the playoffs, but when he does play to his potential he’s one of the best. Danny Green is a lights out shooter who can put up buckets all day and can be a clutch player in crunch time. The up and coming star, Pascal Siakam, is arguably the most improved player in the league, and he has shown this season that he’s a serious baller. He’s second in scoring and rebounding on the team. Marc Gasol was a late pickup near the end of the trade deadline, and he moved into the starting center role. He has not always shown the Gasol that was on the Grizzlies, and that has cost them because he is not rebounding and scoring to his expected level. Finally, their superstar, “The Klaw” Kawhi Leonard is the difference maker for the Raptors. He’s flourished in Toronto this season and is putting up ridiculous numbers in the playoffs. He almost single-handedly led them to the Eastern Conference Finals.
After the Bucks won the first two games in Milwaukee, including a 22-point win in Game, many pundits thought the Bucks would cruise to the NBA Finals. However, the Raptors returned to Toronto and won Games 3 and 4 at home, including an 18-point win in Game 4 to even the series. The series is now a best-of-3 with Game 5 in Milwaukee scheduled for Thursday. No one knows who’s going to win the East this year. It’s a toss up between Milwaukee and Toronto, and it’s anyone’s spot.