2. Lack of improvement in the East
The Raptors won 48 games last year and earned the No. 5 seed in the East, but they could have earned the No. 2 seed behind the Heat if they had won just 52 games. The top of the East may be rigidly defined right now, but a Raptors team boosted by Durant could clear them after some comparatively quiet offseasons.
The Celtics nailed the offseason with the Malcolm Brogdon trade. Besides that, the only move of note among the top four seeds from last season’s East were PJ Tucker and De’Anthony Melton heading to Philadelphia. Royce O’Neale moving to a depleted Brooklyn team in the division doesn’t move the needle either.
The Toronto Raptors could benefit from a weak Eastern Conference.
Miami is an older team who lost a key contributor, which doesn’t bode well for future success. Milwaukee is lethal when healthy, but they have shown to be beatable. The Raptors gave the 76ers everything they had despite an MVP Candidate in Joel Embiid on the other side.
While the Nets would at least be a viable play-in team thanks to the KD return package, the Raptors with Durant could quickly leapfrog Miami in the East. If the development of Barnes is not impacted by Durant coming in and taking shots away, things could get really fun very quickly.