The Race For The East

Who will come out on top in the top-heavy east?

Celtics superstar Jayson Tatum attempts to make a basket

Brian Fluharty/Getty Images

Celtics superstar Jayson Tatum attempts to make a basket

Ethan McNickles, Staff Writer

It’s that time of year where the NBA playoffs are right around the corner, and tensions are flying high for playoff ranking. So, let’s take a look at the race for the number one seed in the east.

Currently holding the number seed in the east with a 45-17 record, The Milwaukee Bucks look to make it back to their second NBA finals after their championship season in 2020-2021. With Giannis Antetokounmpo leading this hardened Bucks team after their defeat to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Semifinals last season, can The Greek Freak lead his team back to the promised land, and win their second championship in three years?

Is the Greek Freak ready to take Milwaukee back to the title? (ADAM GLANZMAN/GETTY IMAGES)

The holder of the second seed, the Boston Celtics, are currently neck-and-neck with the Bucks for the first seed, and a young team led by superstar Jayson Tatum look to use their experience from last year’s finals to finally make it over the hump and win the franchise’s 18th ring. The Celtics have added a lot of support pieces to their roster after their 4-2 loss to the Golden State Warriors in the 2022 NBA Finals. Blake Griffin is probably the most significant improvement to the Celtics roster over the offseason. They also have a new coach, Joe Mazulla, after Ime Udoka was suspended over workplace misconduct rumors.

In the third seed, the Philadelphia 76ers. Joel Embiid and James Harden look to finally make it over the hump and make it to their first NBA finals appearance in over two decades. Can this team of former and current superstars make it to the promised land and deliver the city of Philadelphia their first major sports championship since the Eagles Super Bowl run in 2017? The Sixers have historically struggled with making it past the first and second rounds of the playoffs, mainly losing to teams such as the Celtics, Heat, and Raptors. However, with Joel Embiid playing like a MVP, can this finally be the year for the Sixers? They only have so many left before the finals run window closes. The Sixers currently look to be on top form, and with a Celtics team on a two game losing streak, can the Sixers sneak their way into the 2nd seed?

Are the Sixers ready to make a deep push? (Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

With these three teams battling for the first seed, which will come out top? One could argue that the Bucks are arguably the most experienced and seasoned team in the East, and out of everyone they should be the ones to take the crown. I’d have to agree with that statement, I believe a healthy Bucks squad would probably top the east and probably even make the finals all together. On the other hand, the Celtics have the raw potential, starpower, and bench depth to reach the finals or go toe-to-toe with the Bucks in the eastern conference finals if it came down to that, but one could argue the Celtic’s greatest enemy is themselves. Time after time they have shown flashes of a championship caliber team, only to be followed by streaks of wildly inconsistent basketball such as their loss to the Rockets recently, the second worst team in the league. We all saw how well the Celtics can play at their best, which was evident in the 2022 NBA Playoffs. The question is, can this team finally fight off their struggles and give the city of Boston their first NBA championship since 2008?

On the other hand, The Philadelphia 76ers are quietly approaching the Celtics for the #2 seed. Historically in the playoffs, The 76ers have always been beaten pretty badly in the NBA Playoffs, and they only have so much time left with their core of Harden and Embiid.

What these three teams have in common is that the 2023 Playoffs will drastically shape the future of their franchises and what paths they take. If the Bucks fall short, will their roster stay together or will names like Jrue Holiday, Kris Middleton, and possibly even Giannis Antetokounmpo leave? The Celtics, would Jaylen Brown trade rumors come back if they fall short again? What about Al Horford, would he retire? And the 76ers, would Harden leave Embiid in the dust if the 76ers fall short yet again?