12. Charlotte Hornets
LaMelo Ball looks poised to take the next step, but Charlotte has some questions on this roster. Is Mason Plumlee good enough at the center position? Were Terry Rozier and Gordon Hayward’s upticks in production flukes? How will James Bouknight and Kai Jones hit into the rotation? Be warned, Charlotte might slide.
11. Washington Wizards
Russell Westbrook is gone, but Bradley Beal remains, and trades helped the Wizards replace their invisible depth with players like Spencer Dinwiddie, Kyle Kuzma, and Montrezl Harrell. The roster is still not ideal, but with a defensive coach in Wes Unseld Jr. at the helm, Washington could make some noise if they get into a rhythm.
10. Toronto Raptors
The Raptors will likely be competing for a playoff spot, as this roster is a weird combination of youngsters like Barnes and established veterans like Siakam and VanVleet. Still, considering how consistently Nick Nurse has won over the years, they should be in the playoff picture.
9. Indiana Pacers
With Nate Bjorkgren out and Rick Carlisle in, Indiana could lean on one of the better inside/outside combinations in the East with Domanats Sabonis and Myles Turner in the paint and the Malcolm Brogdon/Caris LeVert tag team on the wing. Perimeter defense will determine how high the ceiling is for this squad