East rankings: James, Cavs still the kings

Sam Amico

The first Eastern Conference power rankings of 2017-18. Plenty more to follow before the start of the season. West is up next.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers: With our without Kyrie Irving, LeBron James will easily keep the Cavs in the driver's seat.

2. Milwaukee Bucks: This ultra-athletic, up-and-coming group is the real deal, with Giannis Antetokounmpo leading the exciting rise.

3. Washington Wizards: With an engine like John Wall, and some strong talent around him (Bradley Beal, Otto Porter), the Wizards are clearly a candidate to finish in the top two.

4. Boston Celtics: Assuming the trade is finalized, the Celtics may need some time with new top scorers Irving and Gordon Hayward, but could finish strong.

5. Toronto Raptors: All the important pieces are back, including Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, and that's a good thing. But it may be the same as it ever was.

6. Miami Heat: Looked good after the All-Star break. Is this the year Dion Waiters becomes an All-Star?

7. Charlotte Hornets: Dwight Howard insists he's been reborn. If not, the Hornets still have enough to see postseason.

8. Detroit Pistons: Anything less than a playoff spot could lead to the end of the Andre Drummond era.

9. Philadelphia 76ers: Lots of youth and even more questions here, but if Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons can get through the season healthy, hey, you never know.

10. Orlando Magic: No stars, but coach Frank Vogel always makes sure Magic play hard and smart.

11. Indiana Pacers: The Paul George run is over. So likely are the Pacers' runs to the playoffs.

12. Chicago Bulls: It's hard to envision Dwyane Wade making it through the season (or even preseason) before a buyout. Rebuild awaits.

13. Brooklyn Nets: Four new starters with D'Angelo Russell as the new go-to guy? Well, things have been worse.

14. New York Knicks: The Carmelo Anthony situation could haunt this poor team all season. Kristaps Porzingis offers reason to watch, anyway.

15. Atlanta Hawks: Quick, name two players other than Dennis Schroeder. Playing for the No. 1 draft pick in 2018.