What you need to know:
- The Cavaliers' third straight run to the NBA Finals was followed by an unexpectedly tumultuous off-season thanks to Kyrie Irving's trade request, which came on the heels of general manager David Griffin's departure.
- The Celtics won an Eastern Conference-best 53 games last season before falling to the Cavaliers in the conference finals.
- The Wizards bring back their core of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr., all eager to challenge the Cavs and Celtics for supremacy in the East.
Five Eastern Conference teams to watch in the NBA 2017-18 season:
The Cavaliers' third straight run to the NBA Finals was followed by an unexpectedly tumultuous off-season thanks to Kyrie Irving's trade request, which came on the heels of general manager David Griffin's departure.
But one thing hasn't changed in Cleveland, where "King" James still reigns. Now the four-time NBA Most Valuable Player is joined by Boston sparkplug Isaiah Thomas, former MVP Derrick Rose and veteran guard Dwyane Wade — James's teammate on two title-winning teams in Miami.
Cleveland may not have been expecting to make those changes, but they could prove a godsend in the Cavs' bid to claim the crown denied them last season by the Golden State Warriors.
The Celtics won an Eastern Conference-best 53 games last season before falling to the Cavaliers in the conference finals. But it's a new-look Celtics that will try again to topple the Cavs this season. Boston landed a big-time free agent in All-Star swingman Gordon Hayward, who rejoins his former college coach Brad Stevens.
The Celtics then traded for four-time All-Star Kyrie Irving, but the acquisition of the Cavs star was costly, and the Celtics could feel the absence of top-notch defenders Jae Crowder and Avery Bradley, now with the Cavaliers.
The Wizards bring back their core of John Wall, Bradley Beal and Otto Porter Jr., all eager to challenge the Cavs and Celtics for supremacy in the East. Wall and Beal make an imposing backcourt duo, and the Wizards rewarded Wall for his efforts in a run to the Eastern Conference semi-finals last year with a four-year, $170 million contract extension.
The team kept Porter on board by matching Brooklyn's maximum offer sheet, and with the addition of veteran Jodie Meeks and former Atlanta Hawks forward Mike Scott, the Wizards will be aiming at making it to the conference finals this time around.
Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan return for a Toronto team largely unchanged from the one that won 51 games last season. While the personnel remains the same, assistant coach Nick Nurse says the coaching staff is encouraging a new offensive approach with more ball movement, better spacing and more players touching the ball.
"Our goal is to create more assited baskets," Nurse said of the changes aimed at finally getting the Raptors over the playoff hump. They face a tough running-in period for the new style with visits to the San Antonio Spurs and reigning champion Golden State Warriors in the first week and nine of their first 14 games on the road.
After a run to the playoffs last season, the Bucks are banking on Giannis Antetokounmpo — last season's NBA Most Improved Player — taking another step to superstardom. Physically imposing and supremely talented, the 22-year-old Greek led his team in scoring, assists, rebounds, blocked shots and steals last season.
He'll be key to a Bucks team that still faces uncertainty over Jabari Parker and Khris Middleton.
Middleton was a solid contributor in 29 games after returning from hamstring surgery last year and it's hoped he'll be at full strength after another off-season. Parker had his second knee surgery in February, and isn't projected to return until mid-season.