The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

The Student News Site of Monta Vista High School

El Estoque

EE-SPN Ep. 5: NBA Eastern Conference Preview 2023-24

Previewing and predicting the Eastern Conference of the 2023-2024 NBA Season

AD: What’s up everybody? Welcome back to Ep. 5 of EE-SPN. My name is Arjun Dhruv and I’m joined here with my co-host Manas Kottakota. Last episode, we previewed the Western Conference for the upcoming 2023-24 NBA season and today we are going to be taking a look at the East. What do you got Manas?

MK: So in the Eastern Conference, I can only see the Bucks being at the top. I don’t think the Celtics and 76ers or [Cavaliers] or teams like that can really compete with the Bucks especially with the addition of Damian Lillard. What about you?

AD: Yeah, I agree. I feel like that trade was a blockbuster trade and I feel like that is going to really shake up the league and I think that the addition of Damian Lillard, such a star player, to an already great Bucks team who won the Finals a couple of years ago, will really help them go over the edge and top that ugly performance that they put up in the playoffs last year.

MK: So following the Bucks, I see teams like the Celtics, 76ers and Cavaliers having heavy competition with each other. So, what do you think those seeds right after the Bucks are going to be?

AD: Yeah, I feel like right next up I have the Celtics. They did lose a key player, Marcus Smart, to the Grizzlies this season, but I feel like they are still a very well rounded team, especially with the addition of Kristaps Porzingis, which I feel will help them make up for their loss of Marcus Smart on the defensive end. So, I still think the Celtics will be the two seed followed by teams like the [Cavaliers] and the [76ers] who are already great teams.

MK: I see the [Cavaliers] and 76ers being right after them. They have been pretty consistent throughout the [few] past years and I definitely see them — the [Cavaliers] especially — being better in the playoffs. I think it was a disappointing loss that they had last year, so I think they’re going to play a lot better in the playoffs and in the regular season. I think they are going to play how they did throughout the past. For the other teams, I think the Heat, they are not really good in the regular season, so I’m not sure how much success they’re going to have, but I do still think that they might be a fifth or sixth seed if they’re lucky and play their best.

AD: I feel like the Heat are a team who are kind of similar to the Warriors. In the regular season, they are not as dominant, but in the playoffs they seem to be able to just turn it around with the help of Jimmy Butler who turns into someone completely different in the playoffs and just goes beast mode and plays really well in the playoffs compared to how he does in the regular season. So I think the Heat will come into the playoffs, starting off as a low seed, but I feel like they will slowly show teams in the playoffs why they’re so good.

MK: Last year in the playoffs, we saw teams like the Knicks having shockingly good performances. Do you think those performances are going to translate to the regular season this year?

AD: The Knicks are a very solid, young team, [so] even if they don’t perform well in the playoffs this year, they will have many chances going forward with Jalen Brunson, Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, all those players being excellent players for them. I feel like they’re all young and have lots of potential and I feel like the Knicks haven’t truly had all their players play to their full potential yet, so I’m excited to see what they have.

MK: Following the playoffs, what do you think the play-in tournament is going to look like? For me, I see the Raptors and the Hawks being the seventh and eighth seeds, and maybe the Nets and Pacers and even the Hornets if they’re lucky to be the ninth, 10th and 11th seeds.

AD: I feel like the seventh seed is going to be occupied by a team like the Nets or the Hawks because I feel like the Nets are similar to the Knicks in a way that they are a very young team with lots of potential with guys like Mikal Bridges and the return of Ben Simmons, who has been controversial over the last couple of years, but he has been looking excellent in the preseason. And I feel like he might make a comeback this year for the Nets [in] the role of the number one go to guy on their team.

MK: Speaking of the preseason, what players do you think stood out to you in the few games that have occurred so far?

AD: Victor Wembanyama and Chet Holmgren. I think those two are absolutely going to be the face of our league over the next five to 10 years. Victor Wembanyama [is] someone who we haven’t seen this kind of talent since LeBron [James] in 2003. So, I feel like his legs and his ability to play like Giannis [Antetokounmpo] while also shoot like [Stephen] Curry will help him become the league’s next best [player].

MK: I agree with you that Victor Wembanyama is definitely great and can be the future of the league, but I don’t think comparing him to LeBron just yet based on a few preseason games is-

AD: I’m saying talent wise.

MK: I’m going to have to disagree with you on that one because I think when LeBron came to the league, obviously I wasn’t there during that time, but I think when he came to the league he definitely had all the tools already ready, but I think Victor Wembanyama is still going to have to develop as least a little bit to be extremely successful like LeBron, especially that quickly. Because Lebron James, as soon as he entered the league, was already a top player, but I don’t think Victor Wembanyama is going to be a top three center immediately when he joins the league.

AD: I disagree with that completely. The way he has been playing in the preseason has been otherworldly. Victor Wembanyama has been blocking three pointers and running to the other end and shooting threes and catching them. I feel like this type of play style is something that we haven’t seen before in the league. I feel like it’s a cross of some of the best attributes that successful players have in this league and he might be a top five center.

MK: I have to agree with you that he is going to be a top five center, just maybe not crack the top three yet because players like [Nikola] Jokić, [Joel] Embiid, Anthony Davis [and] [Domantas] Sabonis; they are still there and they are still really good, so just maybe not [the top three] yet.

AD: Another player in the East who has been playing pretty well has been Jordan Poole, but also [he has also been] pretty inconsistent. He came to the Wizards in a Blockbuster deal from the Warriors. So how do you think the Wizards are going to do with him this year?

MK: We saw in the preseason how he is still inconsistent and he is showing signs of possible superstardom, but with the inconsistency and lack of reliability that other players can have on him. You can’t be an effective team leader if you can’t be consistent and other teammates can’t rely on you. So if he wants to really reach that next level, he’s got to learn how to consistently have those good performances and not just 0-7 on threes every other game.

AD: Yeah, but I also feel like while on the Warriors, he was shadowed by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, so he hasn’t had that opportunity to fill that number one role and be the star player who takes the final shots [of the] game for his team. But I feel like this year he’ll have more of a chance to do that on the Wizards who don’t really have that other star with the loss of Bradley Beal, so I feel like Jordan Poole will be able to embrace that role and I feel like he is the front runner for the ‘Most Improved Player [award].

MK: I don’t think he can be the Most Improved Player because he has already put up great statistics and everyone has already seen what he is capable of. I think the Most Improved Player award is reserved for players who are shockingly [good and] have breakthroughs in the game, but I don’t think it’s too unexpected if Jordan Poole plays well.

AD: So, how are you feeling about the conference finals on both sides? [What] do you think the matchups will be?

MK: For the Eastern Conference, I think we are going to see something that we’ve seen in the past with the Bucks and the Celtics in those finals, and then in the Western Conference, I think maybe a Nuggets and Warriors matchup might be what we are expecting.

AD: I disagree with you. I feel like the addition of Chris Paul was a very questionable decision for them and I feel like they won’t make it to the Western Conference as easily. But I feel like in the East, the Bucks and Celtics obviously are the favorites to make the Eastern Conference Finals, but I wouldn’t be surprised if a team like the Bucks gets upset by a team like the Heat because we have seen in the past how super teams have been falling apart and haven’t really lived up to their potential since the Warriors super team. So I feel like there might be some upsets in the East regarding playoff series.

MK: I have to agree with you about what you said about superstar teams because if we learn that Damian Lillard and Giannis don’t have good chemistry, we can definitely see breakdowns as the season progresses between their relationship because superstars obviously have big egos, so we would hate to see that happen. But if it happens, we can’t be too surprised because it has happened in the past, especially [with] recent teams like with the Brooklyn Nets.

AD: So that’s all for EE-SPN Ep. 5. Thanks for joining us. We’ll see you guys next time where we will be analyzing teams that are a little closer to home.

About the Contributors
Manas Kottakota, Sports Editor
Manas is currently a junior and sports editor for El Estoque. In his free time, he enjoys biking with his friends, traveling to new places with his family and cooking.
Arjun Dhruv, Sports Editor
Arjun is currently a junior and a sports editor for El Estoque. In his free time, he enjoys watching TV Shows and playing/watching sports with his friends.
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