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2022 NBA Eastern Conference Power Rankings & Offseason Grades

Will Desvallees Jul 20th 1:37 PM EDT.

Monday, we went through the Western Conference Power Rankings and broke down each of the 15 teams’ moves and offseason grades. Today, we’ll take a look at the 2022 NBA Eastern Conference Power Rankings.

The Boston Celtics acquired Malcolm Brogdon, the New York Knicks signed Jalen Brunson, and the Atlanta Hawks traded for Dejounte Murray. Let’s take a look at the implications of the numerous offseason moves made by all 15 teams in the East and consider how strong each roster is heading into the new season. Let’s dive in!

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1. Boston Celtics (Offseason Grade: A)

Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown finally earned their first ticket to the NBA Finals last season. After reaching the Eastern Conference Finals four times, Marcus Smart deserved to finally play in a championship series but his Celtics fell short. Although the Golden State Warriors easily won the series to bring home their fourth NBA Championship in the last eight years, Boston’s core of young players reached a milestone by beating all of their competition in the Eastern Conference Playoffs. 

This offseason, the Boston Celtics traded five players featuring PF Daniel Theis and SF Aaron Neismith to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for PG Malcolm Brogdon. Brogdon will bring more versatility to the team among their guards. Marcus Smart is a killer and will continue to start at the point guard position after winning the 2021 Defensive Player of the Year Award, but perhaps doesn’t offer the scoring and playmaking Brogdon is capable of when healthy. Last season, Brogdon was limited to 36 games as a result of injury, but still averaged 19.1 PPG and 5.9 assists per contest. In 2020, Brogdon played 56 games to average 21.2 points and 5.9 assists per game. Alongside Smart, the pair of guards should truly improve the Celtics' ball movement and playmaking. During the playoffs, the Celtics struggled at times with ball movement and were forced to play iso ball through their two best players: Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

With an improved backcourt and more development from Tatum and Brown, the sky is the limit for the Boston Celtics.

2. Miami Heat (Offseason Grade: B-)

The Miami Heat returned to the Eastern Conference Finals this year but lost at the hands of the Boston Celtics. Between the Heat and the Bucks, it is tough to determine who is the second-best team in the East heading into the 2022 season. Miami’s principal issue will be finding pieces to place around Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, both of whom can consistently score 20+ points a night. While guard Tyler Herro can easily score 30+ on some nights, he had multiple games in the postseason where he scored in single digits. He needs to be scoring in double figures every night, no questions asked. This is the year that Herro takes the next step, especially if Miami doesn’t deal Herro in a trade.

With the No. 25 overall selection in the draft, Miami selected PF/C Nikola Jovic. Jovic performed very well during the Summer league, exploding for 25 points (9-16 FG) in only 28 minutes in his third game against the Golden State Warriors.

Overall, the Heat remains the second-best team in the East due to their immense depth and their star power in Jimmy Butler.

3. Milwaukee Bucks (Offseason Grade: B)

The Milwaukee Bucks got business done this offseason. Largely, they re-signed some crucial role players who helped them earn the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference last season. Pat Connaughton, Bobby Portis, Wesley Matthews, Jevon Carter, and even Serge Ibaka will be returning to Milwaukee in 2022. In addition, the Bucks signed free-agent wing, Joe Ingles, formerly of the Utah Jazz. While Ingles’ season was cut short in 2021 due to injury, he’s been a very important role player in Utah over the last few years. He should fit in nicely with his new team coming off the bench. Ingles will serve as a much-needed three-point specialist for Jrue Holiday and Giannis Antetokounmpo to kick it out to in the corner.

The Bucks also used the No. 24 pick overall to select SF Marjon Beauchamp (G-League, Ignite). In 12 games played for Ignite last season, Beauchamp averaged 15.1 PPG, converting 57.1% of his shots taken from the floor. He also produced 7.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game in 36.6 MPG in the G-League last season. 

In retaining their core of role players while adding Joe Ingles and Marjon Beauchamp, the Bucks have lost virtually nothing. They look as strong as ever with the Greek Freak ready to get back to the NBA Finals in 2022.

4. Philadelphia 76ers (Offseason Grade: A-)

The 76ers fell short once again in last season’s NBA playoffs. One player who they opted to trade was Danny Green. Green was once one of the best three-point shooters and lockdown defenders in the league but he’s been completely unreliable and inconsistent for a while now. Philadelphia sent Green to the Grizzlies in exchange for backup PG De’Anthony Melton. This is a fair trade, especially because Melton is an efficient scorer capable of running the point or shooting from the perimeter. Last season in Memphis, Melton filled in admirably for the injured Ja Morant. And when Morant was healthy, Melton often came off the bench to play shooting guard due to his sweet stroke despite his size. Melton will therefore back up fellow point guard Tyrese Maxey and SG James Harden, which shows how much depth the team has among guards on their roster. 

The 76ers also brought in PF/C P.J. Tucker who has been a crucial role player for each of the last three teams he’s played for (Rockets, Bucks, Heat) respectively. If he can provide that same grit for the 76ers that he has for the teams he’s played for over the last few years, Philadelphia got themselves a nice player capable of disrupting opposing teams.

So long as the core three of Maxey, Harden, and Joel Embiid remain intact, the Sixers will have a chance to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals this upcoming year and should be considered a contender despite falling short in the Eastern Conference playoffs over the last few years. The role players added to Philly’s roster such as Melton and Tucker are upgrades in comparison to a wing like Danny Green, who scored 5.9 points per game on a disappointing 39.5% from the field and less than 40% from downtown. 

5. Chicago Bulls (Offseason Grade: B-)

The Bulls didn’t do much this offseason. They've re-signed Zach LaVine to the biggest contract extension in the history of the franchise and added PG Goran Dragic to the roster as a free agent. They also signed backup big man Andre Drummond, who could provide some punch when C Nikola Vucevic needs to take a breather.

The Bulls used the No. 18 overall selection in this year’s draft to select PG Dalen Terry (Arizona). Interestingly enough, the Bulls focused so much on adding guards this offseason even though both Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso are expected to return to Chicago healthy heading into 2022. 

Chicago did very little to strengthen their existing roster. They also oddly selected a guard when they are more in need of a strong power forward or small forward. Still, the Bulls have one of the best starting fives in the East despite making very few moves to bolster their team this offseason. 

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6. Atlanta Hawks (Offseason Grade: A+) 

Heading into 2022, the Atlanta Hawks not only have Trae Young, but they also have PG Dejounte Murray in the backcourt. For the first time in a while, the Atlanta Hawks probably have the best backcourt in the Eastern Conference, and perhaps in the entire NBA. 

The Hawks also completed a multi-player trade with the Sacramento Kings. In exchange for Justin Holiday and Maurice Harkless, the Hawks sent over sharpshooter Kevin Huerter. Huerter has vastly improved and shot a career-high 45.4% from the field (38.9 3PT%) for 12.1 PPG, 3.4 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per contest last season. While Huerter is the Hawks' biggest loss this offseason, they got two role players in exchange and brought Murray over from the Spurs. 

The Hawks used the No. 16 pick in the draft to select wing AJ Griffin (Duke). This was an absolute steal as most experts expected the former Blue Devil to be selected within the lottery. Last season, he averaged 10.4 points per contest, converting 49.3% of shots from the field and a whopping 44.7% of his deep balls in 39 games with Coach K’s Blue Devils. Atlanta certainly drafted the perfect downtown shooter to replace Huerter in the rotation.

The Hawks starting lineup for next season could look a little like this: 

That looks pretty good all things considered. Heading into 2022, the Hawks look like a legitimate playoff team as opposed to a 7-10 seed in the East forced to scramble out of the play-in tournament.


7. New York Knicks (Offseason Grade: B+)

The Knicks’ front office made some noise in the NBA Draft this year. Notably, they traded away Kemba Walker, Alec Burks, and Nerlens Noel to the Detroit Pistons for multiple draft picks. In total, they acquired four first-round draft picks from trades and moves with other teams, giving them serious negotiating capital as they currently try to bring three-time All-Star, Donovan Mitchell, on board from the Utah Jazz. New York also signed free-agent guard Jalen Brunson formerly of the Dallas Mavericks, which provides the team with one of the best guards they have had in years. 

The Knicks made good moves, but aren’t getting an A grade until they can officially sign Mitchell. Still, Leon Rose and the front office made some big moves giving the Knicks a huge upgrade at the guard position, not to mention the draft capital they are trying to leverage in trade negotiations with the Jazz at the moment. 

The Knicks have all the leverage when it comes to making a deal for Mitchell. Utah is rebuilding for the future whereas the Knicks are hoping to acquire Mitchell so they can instantly become a contender (rather than a pretender) in the East. If the Knicks can pull off the trade below, they would skyrocket up the Power Rankings and earn an A+ for this year’s offseason.

This trade would result in a starting lineup of:

It doesn’t get much better than that.

8. Toronto Raptors (Offseason Grade: B)

While the Raptors really didn’t do much this offseason, they didn’t suffer any losses. Toronto does remain one of the very few potential destinations for Kevin Durant. The team re-signed PF Chris Boucher, who played fewer minutes last season than he did in 2020. Still, he averaged 9.4 PPG and 6.2 REBs though he shifted to power forward from center last season. The Raptors also re-signed veteran forward Thaddeus Young. In 26 games played for the Raptors last season, Young averaged 6.3 points and 4.4 boards in 18.3 minutes per contest. 

In addition, the Raptors signed free agent SF Otto Porter Jr. from the Golden State Warriors. Porter had a bounce-back year in 2021 after struggling to stay healthy and bouncing around a few NBA teams in the years prior. He played 63 games for the Warriors in 2021, averaging 8.2 points while converting 46.4% of his field goals. Porter also snagged 4.4 rebounds in just 22.2 minutes per game. Notably, his abilities as a shooting wing who knocked down 37% of his three-pointers last season are particularly valuable to Toronto, which lacked efficient perimeter shooting last season. The Raptors ranked 23rd among all NBA teams in three-point shooting, converting a total of 34.5% of their baskets from downtown in 2021. That’s after they combined for 36.8% shooting from downtown as a team in 2020. Clearly, this is one area in which the Raptors needed to focus on this offseason. Acquiring Otto Porter Jr. was a solid first step in that process, especially if he sees increased playing time in comparison to the minutes he received in Golden State. 

Ultimately, it is unlikely that Kevin Durant makes his way to Toronto as the Raptors would have to offer a massive package to the Nets in which a handful of guys who just re-signed or are under contract in Toronto would be shipped to Brooklyn. If nothing changes with the Raptors' roster this offseason, they decided to bring back role players who they felt produced enough. While Otto Porter Jr. isn’t the biggest name in free agency, his addition to their team after his championship season with the Warriors could end up being a result-producing acquisition. He will definitely be someone the squad rallies around in the locker room.

9. Cleveland Cavaliers (Offseason Grade: A-)

The Cavs began their offseason by offering PG Darius Garland a nice contract extension. Last season, Garland had an All-Star caliber year as a scorer and playmaker for Cleveland. In free agency, the Cavaliers did great. They were able to bring back Ricky Rubio who excelled as Garland’s backup at the point guard position. They also signed C Robin Lopez from the Magic and PG Raul Neto from the Wizards.

In the draft, Cleveland selected Ochai Agbaji (Kansas) with the No. 14 overall selection. They also drafted three rookies in the second round including Khalifa Diop and Evan Mobley’s younger brother: Isaiah Mobley. It will be interesting to see how the Mobley brothers perform together but Cavs fans are particularly excited about Agbaji. He fits in perfectly as Cleveland has Garland manning the point and Collin Sexton is expected to be back at full strength so he can start at shooting guard in 2022. Agbaji could start the season on the bench but may eventually earn the starting small forward gig. Cleveland still has Lauri Markkanen, Caris LeVert, and Isaac Okoro under contract. 

The Cavaliers made all of these moves without losing any pieces of their existing roster. They still have Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley to anchor the defense and they vastly improved their core of guards. Plus, they drafted a 2022 NCAA Champion and underrated (in our opinion) rookie in Agbaji mid-way through the first round. Cleveland can be much more dangerous than opposing teams are anticipating in 2022.

10. Charlotte Hornets (Offseason Grade: B+)

As of right now, the Charlotte Hornets have not gotten rid of anyone on their current roster. The biggest news coming out of Charlotte at the moment is PG LaMelo Ball’s decision to switch his jersey number from No. 2 to No. 1. 

With the No. 15 overall selection in this year’s draft, the Hornets drafted C Mark Williams (Duke). He is a giant listed at 7’2’’ and roughly 250 lbs. This will provide Charlotte with a massive upgrade from their current big man, Mason Plumlee

Some terrible news was reported yesterday surrounding SF Miles Bridges. He was charged with a felony for domestic violence. At the moment, his status heading into the new season remains unclear. Bridges had a breakout year last season, averaging 20.2 points and 7.0 rebounds per contest through 80 games in 2021.

The hope is that a new head coach will give significant playing time to Charlotte's 2021 rookie James Bouknight so that he can develop alongside LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, and Gordon Hayward. Ultimately, the Hornets didn't make many moves this offseason but all their key players were under contract. Charlotte's front office had less to do this offseason than many other teams in the Eastern Conference. Their biggest concern will be the status of Miles Bridges, who is currently facing serious criminal charges. There have also been a few rumors circulating the web about a potential Hayward and P.J. Washington trade to the Pacers for Myles Turner and Buddy Hield. That could change things dramatically.

11. Brooklyn Nets (Offseason Grade: C+)

While the Brooklyn Nets are in a state of crisis after Kevin Durant requested a trade out of the organization, they have been scrambling to bring in some free-agent talent. The Nets signed T.J. Warren formerly of the Indiana Pacers. While he hasn’t played in more than two years due to lingering complications with his foot injury, Warren played like an absolute beast in the 2020 bubble. (Personally, he’s one of the players I've been the most excited to see come back). In addition, the Nets acquired Roye O’Neale from the Jazz who will serve as a wing with more of a defensive presence as opposed to Bruce Brown who’s game was offense driven. 

The Nets re-signed C Nicolas Claxton, SG Kessler Edwards, and PG Patty Mills. Specifically, Claxton and Mills returning to the Nets is encouraging for a team that is dealing with an unbelievable amount of uncertainty. Bringing those players back was the sound decision, specifically because KD is out and Kyrie Irving’s status heading into 2022 remains up in the air. 

If Warren is healthy, who knows if he can return to his days in the bubble. His return to the NBA is exciting and he could end up being a great pickup if he is able to score anywhere close to what he did in 2020. With good returning players such as Mills and Claxton ready to go in 2022 and the addition of O’Neale to bolster up the team’s defense, the Nets can’t be criticized for their moves this offseason. 

Still, the loss of KD and the ceaseless Kyrie Irving saga have created a catastrophe of a situation the Nets front office had to deal with. For them to have made these moves, especially under the pressing circumstances facing the organization is respectable. However, without KD and the chaos within the organization heading into 2022, it is tough to put Brooklyn as a top-10 team in the Eastern Conference heading into next season. Don’t forget that the Nets had James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving last season and struggled to even sneak into the playoffs. Once they shipped Harden for Ben Simmons, the former 76er never even suited up.

Right now, the Brooklyn Nets are still figuring out their identity.

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12. Washington Wizards (Offseason Grade: B)

Though Bradley Beal was out last season, the Wizards re-signed him. This brings the Wizards’ best player back for years to come. Beal opted into free agency, then signed a five-year max contract worth $251 million. This makes Beal’s contract the second-biggest in NBA history behind Nikola Jokic’s $260 million deal with the Nuggets. In addition, the Wizards were on the winning end of a trade with the Denver Nuggets. Washington traded PG Ish Smith and SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in exchange for PG Monte Morris and veteran wing Will Barton

Both Barton and Morris are upgrades at PG and SG from Smith and Caldwell-Pope. Filling in for Jamal Murray last season, Morris averaged 12.6 points, converting 48.4% of his shots taken from the field, 4.4 assists, and 3.0 rebounds per contest. Barton averaged 14.7 PPG (43.8 FG%), 3.9 assists, and 4.8 rebounds in 32.1 minutes per game last season. In comparison, Caldwell-Pope scored 13.2 points, grabbed 2.9 rebounds, and dished out 1.9 assists per game. 

Finally, the Wizards selected guard Johnny Davis (Wisconsin) with the No. 10 overall selection in this year’s draft. Last season, he finished third in the Big Ten in scoring, pumping out 19.7 PPG on 42.7% shooting from the field. Davis also averaged 8.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.2 steals per contest for the Badgers last season. He therefore ranked fifth in the Big Ten (as a guard) in rebounding. He is a player capable of producing efficiently on both ends of the floor who should serve the Wizards very well. The team has created significant roster depth among guards in addition to securing Beal’s future for the next few years. 

The biggest concern for the Wizards heading into 2022 is the questionable health of Beal and especially Kristaps Porzingis. In each of the last three seasons, KP has played a maximum of 51 games and therefore missed at least 31 due to injury. Still, in 17 games played for the Wizards last season, KP averaged 22.1 PPG on 47.5% shooting from the field. He also averaged 8.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.5 blocks through his first stretch of games for the Wizards after being traded by the Dallas Mavericks. For the Wizards to succeed, both Beal and Porzingis need to stay healthy. If this is possible, the addition of Morris, Barton, and rookie Johnny Davis could land the Wizards more wins than all of us might expect right now.

13. Indiana Pacers (Offseason Grade: C+)

Indiana is rebuilding their team and has essentially made the honest decision to tank next season. They gave away PG Malcolm Brogdon for five underwhelming Celtics. Notably, they received Daniel Theis and Aaron Nesmith. They also dealt backup PG Ricky Rubio leaving them with T.J. McConnel heading into next season (McConnell missed most of last season due to a wrist injury). In addition, the Pacers lost SF T.J. Warren to the Brooklyn Nets. Although he hasn't played in two years, Warren averaged 19.8 PPG and converted 52.9% of his shots taken from the field for Indiana in 2019. Warren averaged 26.6 points and 6.3 rebounds per game in the 2020 NBA Bubble, something people might remember well. Although his health is a serious issue, the Pacers lost out on Warren who will be in Brooklyn next season. 

With their first-round pick and the No. 6 overall selection, the Pacers selected Canadian SG Bennedict Mathurin (Arizona). Last season for the Wildcats, he averaged 17.7 PPG (45 FG%), 5.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and one steal per game. Especially since Indiana lost Brogdon, this promising rookie could fill in for his scoring. However, Mathurin wasn't much of a playmaker at Arizona, and likely wont be the true point guard for the Pacers which Brogdon was. Fortunately, Tyrese Haliburton proved last season that he can easily man the point in Indiana.

Indiana drafted well, but lost out in trades and free agency this offseason. They are a team that is ready for a full rebuild and in the early stages of making it happen. Time will tell if they send Myles Turner and Buddy Hield to the Hornets for Gordon Hayward.

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14. Orlando Magic (Offseason Grade: A)

With the first overall selection in the 2022 NBA Draft, the Magic selected Italian-American standout PF Paolo Banchero (Duke). Though some pundits think Jabari Smith out of Auburn or Chet Holmgren out of Gonzaga was the superior option, I think Orlando made the right decision going with Banchero. The former Blue Devil has more power than the other two players and can therefore dominate in the paint. He’s heavier and stronger than Smith and will absolutely develop into an All-Star caliber player.

Alongside C Mo Bamba, Banchero and the Orlando Magic should be much more physical in the paint next season, which will allow them to take some pressure off of the team’s guards. The only player the Magic lost so far is veteran center Robin Lopez. This is not a big loss for Orlando who re-signed both Mo Bamba and Bol Bol in addition to drafting Banchero. There is a slight chance that Banchero begins the season on the bench since Orlando can start Wendell Carter Jr. at power forward and Mo Bamba at center but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Magic played around with the starting lineup. One thing is for sure though: Cole Anthony, Franz Wagner, and Wendell Carter Jr. will be in the starting lineup. It will be interesting to see how Orlando’s coaching staff fills out the rotation.

15. Detroit Pistons (Offseason Grade: B)

The Pistons were able to acquire some good bench players from the Knicks. Notably, Kemba Walker will have a chance to redeem himself after the failure which was his 2021 season in blue and orange. Detroit also acquired SG Alec Burks and C Nerlens Noel from the Knicks in exchange for future draft picks. The Pistons did trade Jerami Grant to the Portland Trail Blazers, which will be a big loss for the team regarding roster depth at power forward. 

In the draft, the Pistons got some great talent. With the No. 5 overall selection in the 2022 NBA Draft, the Pistons selected the best point guard in this draft class: Jaden Ivey (Purdue). They also acquired No. 13 overall pick C Jalen Duren (Memphis). At 6’11’’ and roughly 250 lbs., Detroit has a new big to dominate the glass and try to fill in some of the holes that Grant left behind. In addition, the Pistons re-signed Marvin Bagley III who came into his own playing for the Pistons last season. 

Detroit has a long way to go but they have a great backcourt tandem with Jaden Ivey and Cade Cunningham. Alec Burks or Sadiq Bey can play small forward while Bagley slots into the power forward position and 2020 first-round selection, Isaiah Stewart, will start at center with rookie Jalen Duren backing him up. The Pistons won’t finish with a good record in 2022 but they have the pieces to build on this roster and compete in three of four years.

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