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    Bucks look great, Celtics are drama-free, but count on Sixers to rule East

    Oct 22, 2019
    spin zone

    CHICAGO - The phrase "Go west, you man " was popularized by Horace Greeley in an editorial for The New York Tribune on July 13, 1851. It refers to America's expansion westward as it relates to Manifest Destiny.

    In the NBA, the West represents wealth and prosperity, a vigorous conference that has annexed the championship four times in the last six years.

    Although the Toronto Raptors won it all last June, the East has always been regarded as the weaker conference, more so now that Kawhi Leonard has departed Canada to move on with the L.A. Clippers.

    Unlike the West where six teams are legitimate title contenders, the East is a three-way race to the NBA Finals involving Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Boston. Brooklyn could have been up there, too, but Kevin Durant is out nursing a ruptured Achilles.

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    So who will win the East?

    The Bucks are the kosher pick. Not only did they finish last season with a 60-22 slate to top the conference last season, they were also No. 1 in the league in points scored per game (118.1) and No. 1 in defensive rating (105.2).

    The Bucks lost Nikola Mirotic (transferred to the Euro League) and Malcolm Brogdon (traded to the Pacers), but they found comparable assets in Kyle Korver and Wesley Matthews.

    Most importantly, the Bucks kept their most valuable asset - reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

    With Mike Budenholzer's exceptional coaching, plus the right parts around the Greek Freak, the Bucks are indeed the team to beat in the East.

    And I believe the Philadelphia 76ers will do exactly just that.

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    After their promising 2018-19 season ended in tears following a heartbreaking Game 7 loss the Raptors in the second round of the playoffs last May, the Sixers spent less time wallowing in misery than they did in retooling their lineup.

    They acquired Josh Richardson from Miami in a package involving Jimmy Butler and signed veteran big man and five-time All-Star Al Horford.

    With the latest additions, the Sixers now have arguably the best and tallest starting five in the NBA, parading the 6-foot-6 Richardson alongside Horford (6-foot-10), Tobias Harris (6-foot-9), Ben Simmons (6-foot-10) and Joel Embiid (7-feet).

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    Philly crested last season at 51-31, third in the East. They were fourth in scoring (115.2 points per) but their defense lacked bite, 15th in the NBA with a rating of 110.

    If Embiid, who missed 18 games last season with a myriad of injuries, can stay healthy, the Sixers will be a force on both ends of the floor. And if Simmons does develop an outside shot as heavily advertised, then Lord have mercy.

    A year removed from a trip to the Eastern Conference finals, the forecast was sunny in Boston for the 2018-19 season.

    But despite a healthy 49-33 finish, the team rotted with internal conflict and got quickly euthanized by the Bucks in Round 2 of the playoffs.

    But malcontent Kyrie Irving, who was reportedly a toxic locker room presence, has taken his disgruntled ways to Brooklyn, thank goodness.

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    In comes Kemba Walker, a more likable All-Star who left Charlotte in search of a fresh start. Walker averaged 25.6 points and 5.9 assists per last season and he will be the leader of a band made up of Jayson Tatum, Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown, who has just inked a four-year $115-million extension.

    Head coach Brad Stevens is back, unencumbered by the whims of an unhappy, discontented star. Drama-free, the Celtics will be all about basketball here and now.

    Just like how it used to be in the glory days of Larry Bird.

    In the end, however, we won't be toasting a cold Milwaukee brew or celebrating sweet victory with a delicious wedge of Boston cream pie.

    We will be eating Philly cheese steaks as we watch the Sixers march to the NBA Finals and take a swing at those Clippers.

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