Orlando Magic stuck in between: Eastern Conference Power Rankings

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Zach LaVine, Chicago Bulls, Orlando Magic, Wendell Carter
Zach LaVine helped the Chicago Bulls break through to get back into the playoffs. But the team is now reassessing its future a year after the major trade with the he Orlando Magic. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports /

Preseason Eastern Conference Power Rankings

team. 24. . . . Chicago Bulls. 10

The Chicago Bulls are not likely to finish as the 10-seed. Some team above them on this list will not meet their expectations and a team like the Chicago Bulls will be able to keep their spot.

The Bulls should be in the playoffs and they have the talent to make the postseason at a minimum. Nothing else should do.

But there is a general lack of excitement for what the Bulls did this offseason. They brought back Zach LaVine which was the big goal for the offseason. So it was mission accomplished for Chicago.

And the Bulls were in a good spot in the standings before Alex Caruso’s injury and Lonzo Ball’s injury derailed their season and had them falling to sixth.

Caruso eventually came back and gave the Bulls that defensive guard presence they needed. It is not clear if Ball will be 100 percent for training camp. That is a massive loss.

The Bulls are a top-heavy roster with Zach LaVine (who played the back half of the season with an injury) and DeMar DeRozan carrying a lot of the offensive load. Nikola Vucevic had an up-and-down season and seemed like the odd man out all of a sudden.

Goran Dragic was a quietly solid free agent acquisition. But if the Bulls deal with injuries then they could see a similar fall.

Remember, Orlando has Chicago’s pick in the 2023 Draft. And the Bulls, despite plenty of talent and a pretty sure spot in the postseason, could easily fall off.

But Chicago should be spending this season figuring out what its ceiling is and being aggressive to take advantage of what is left of some of the team’s aging veterans. Otherwise, this just feel slike a talented group that tops off at a first-round exit.

. . Washington Wizards. 11. team. 142.

The Washington Wizards are a team that is extremely tough to figure out.

Bradley Beal is an All-NBA talent who has ended up carrying an unhealthy load. He seems like the next big player to ask for a trade and the Wizards are the next team that just decides to hit reset.

Yet, Washington has pushed its chips in repeatedly. The team grabbed Kristaps Porzingis at the trade deadline last year to give Bradley Beal a running partner. The Wizards were 7-10 in games Porzingis played. But he was clearly working his way back to game shape. And Beal was out of the lineup once Porzingis arrived.

Washington has not really seen Porzingis and Beal together. It at least promises to be an interesting combination if both players can stay healthy.

Adding guards Monte Morris and Will Barton in a trade with the Denver Nuggets were good additions. Washington got more spacing. The Wizards have some interesting players they could make work and they should believe they are a playoff team.

They just have to be healthy, which is the big question for this group.

New York Knicks. 12. team. 27. . .

So. . . what are the New York Knicks?

They are probably the one team in the Eastern Conference that is more confusing to figure out than any other.

They threw the bag at Jalen Brunson this offseason. And while Brunson had an incredible postseason and is a good scorer. It still seemed like a steep price for him. He is probably still a bit of a limiting player to build around.

Sure, Julius Randle was a big part of the Knicks’ surprising run to the 4-seed in the 2020 season. But he came crashing back to Earth last year even with some pockets of his All-Star level of play.

RJ Barrett is the brightest spot on the team. He finally seemed to peak through and play the star level that many believed he could reach. But even he seems to have some limitations at this point in his career.

New York should still view itself as a playoff team. But this is probably not a team getting out of the first round. And the Knicks should be too good to tank — not that this is something the franchise wants the team to do.

Tom Thibodeau will have this team playing defense at a high level regardless. And this team could easily put things together — we did not even mention Evan Fournier, Obi Toppin or Immanuel Quickley as solid rotation players due for better seasons. But, yeah, this is a bloated middle and the Knicks could be sinking again.