From Kyrie Irving’s move to Boston and Dwyane Wade’s arrival in Cleveland, a team-by-team look at the Eastern Conference, in projected order of finish:
1. CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
LAST SEASON: 51-31, lost in NBA Finals
COACH: Tyronn Lue (third season)
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE: G Derrick Rose (18.0), G Dwyane Wade (18.3), F LeBron James (26.4), F Jae Crowder (13.9), C Kevin Love (19.0)
KEY LOSSES: Kyrie Irving, James Jones
KEY ADDITIONS: Rose, Wade, Crowder, G Isaiah Thomas, G Jose Calderon, F Jeff Green
PLAYER TO WATCH: There are enthralling story lines throughout Cleveland’s roster, but James is at the heart of everything. He barely took a deep breath after losing in his seventh straight Finals before getting back in the gym. He’s as motivated as ever, fueled by Irving’s trade demand and finishing fourth in the MVP voting. The 32-year-old can opt out of his contract next summer and become a free agent and James’ future plans will hover over the Cavs all season. But back with Wade, he’s rarely been happier.
OUTLOOK: Despite losing Irving, the Cavs remain the class of the Eastern Conference and it’s hard to imagine any team denying them a fourth straight Finals appearance. Thomas is expected back from his back injury by year’s end, and his return will only complicate things for Lue, who must keep everyone happy with their playing time. Love’s move to center should open floor space for James, Wade and Rose.
2. WASHINGTON WIZARDS
LAST SEASON: 49-33, lost in Eastern Conference semifinals
COACH: Scott Brooks (second season, ninth NBA season)
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE: G John Wall (23.1 ppg, 10.7 apg), G Bradley Beal (23.1 ppg), F Otto Porter Jr. (13.4 ppg), F Markieff Morris, (14 ppg), C Marcin Gortat (10.8 ppg)
KEY LOSSES: F Bojan Bogdanovic
KEY ADDITIONS: G Tim Frazier, G Jodie Meeks, F Mike Scott
PLAYER TO WATCH: Porter will be expected to keep improving after signing a $106.5 million, four-year contract. He emerged as a top 3-point…