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The Western Conference was essentially an eight-month cage match between 10 ultra-competitive teams. The East? The Boston Celtics seemingly had it wrapped up somewhere around Thanksgiving. Their main competitors got hurt, fired coaches or just generally disappointed. Boston held a 14-game lead in the standings when the regular season concluded. They lost twice against their conference opponents in the playoffs.

The biggest question for Boston going into the offseason is how it can maintain what went right this past season. The biggest question for everyone else is how on Earth they can catch up to the conference's resident juggernaut. So let's go team-by-team and address these concerns. What is the biggest question all 15 Eastern Conference teams need to answer over the summer?

Boston Celtics: What's their long-term tax plan?

The Celtics have built a champion. Now they have to maintain it. That won't be an issue this offseason. Everyone of note is under contract. But Derrick White and Jayson Tatum are both about to get hefty contract extensions. Jrue Holiday got one during the season. Jaylen Brown and Kristaps Porzingis did last summer. You can't pay everyone, and even if Boston keeps its starters together, there's no way that it can keep key reserves like Sam Hauser and Payton Pritchard at that price. The goal for Boston will be avoiding the second apron this summer, because once it re-signs everyone, that two-year clock before future draft picks get knocked to No. 30 overall starts. That basically creates a three-year window with this group, so keep an eye on Boston's finances this summer. Perhaps we'll get a hint at how the Celtics plan to deal with the enormous tax bills that are coming.

New York Knicks: Is this the summer they get their superstar?

New York's run to within one game of the Eastern Conference finals was one of the stories of the postseason, and perhaps with Julius Randle back, it will take that next step organically next season. But let's be realistic, the moment the Knicks can trade Randle and draft picks for a true superstar to pair with Jalen Brunson, they'll do so. Is that player out there this summer? Perhaps at suboptimal positions (one of the Cleveland guards) or ages (Jimmy Butler, for example). Are the Knicks prepared to trade for a very good player now? Or are they waiting for the perfect, in-his-prime superstar that can give them an extended window?

Milwaukee Bucks: How are they going to find perimeter defense?

The Bucks have heard plenty of jokes about how they handed the Celtics the championship by inadvertently getting them Jrue Holiday. That's a bit overstated, but their own perimeter defense fell off of a cliff without him, and the Bucks have no obvious way of replacing it. They are so deep into the tax that their free-agent targets will all likely make the minimum. Would they break up their core to find help on the wing? Brook Lopez is reportedly available. It's hard to imagine he has too much trade value at 36. Could Khris Middleton get them a major defender? Would Giannis Antetokounmpo accept a Middleton trade? It's going to take something drastic to even approach Holiday's defensive impact. Do the Bucks have one more blockbuster deal in them?

Cleveland Cavaliers: Who's getting traded?

If Donovan Mitchell doesn't extend, he's getting traded. If he does? Darius Garland probably pushes for a trade. Jarrett Allen is probably the most desirable center on the market, and his poor offensive fit with Evan Mobley suggests that Cleveland probably should move him. For now, all reports hint that Cleveland wants to run it back. Unless the offers are unacceptably poor, that's a terrible idea. This team has two guards that don't work together and two bigs that don't work together. This roster is getting shuffled at some point. The longer you wait, the harder it is to maximize value in trade returns. So, who's staying and who's going?

Orlando Magic: Where are they finding shooting?

The Magic are the rare team with a surplus of wing size and an absolute dearth of shot-creation out of the backcourt. They can get by on the playmaking front with Paolo Banchero and Franz Wagner, but eventually, they're going to need to start making some 3s. Klay Thompson is the name to watch, but if he ultimately stays with the Warriors, the Magic could go in a number of other directions. Anfernee Simons is perfectly suited for a role that demands shot-making and nothing else, for instance, and the Blazers have little need for him long-term with Shaedon Sharpe and Scoot Henderson in place.

Indiana Pacers: Is this team willing to pay the tax?

The Pacers now have two max players in Tyrese Haliburton and Pascal Siakam. They will reportedly try to extend T.J. McConnell and Andrew Nembhard this offseason. Obi Toppin will be a restricted free agent. It might not seem this way given their youth, but the Pacers are pretty close to the luxury tax line both now and in the future. Will Indiana's ownership, known for its frugality for years, pony up the dough to keep this team together?  

Philadelphia 76ers: How are they finding depth?

We know Daryl Morey is going hunting for a superstar. Maybe he gets Paul George. Maybe it's LeBron James. Maybe it's Jimmy Butler. Maybe it's someone we don't see yet. But he's going to land some third player of significance with his $60 million or so in cap space. The bigger question here is how he will build out the surrounding roster. An acquisition like the ones above would leave Philadelphia with three players and only around $16 million in remaining cap space. That could get them a starter. The cap room mid-level exception could get them another. But the bench is probably going to consist mostly of minimum-salary signings. Can the 76ers build a real team around what will likely be a stellar top three?

Miami Heat: Are they ready for a reset?

Jimmy Butler wants an extension that the Heat are seemingly uncertain about giving him. He's about to turn 35. The Heat never give away stars. They add them. But after giving away so many picks to build and maintain this team, the Heat might need to take a step back if they plan to get back into the championship picture during Bam Adebayo's time. The easiest way to do that would be trading Butler for assets now that could be redirected for a younger co-star later. But would the Heat ever willingly accept a step back like that?

Chicago Bulls: Will they finally tank?

The good news is that the Bulls finally traded Alex Caruso. The bad news is that they got Josh Giddey back in the deal, a very talented young player that needs a very narrow set of circumstances to succeed. He needs the ball in his hands and he needs shooters around him. The Bulls can promise neither if Zach LaVine and DeMar DeRozan are retained. How far down the rebuilding rabbit hole will this team go? Chicago's goal for the past few seasons has seemingly been "win as many games as possible without paying the tax." It has successfully ducked the tax. Will the Bulls duck the short-term winning mandate to take a step back, get off of bad contracts and find players that fit more around Giddey even if it means tanking for a year or two? They should for a variety of reasons, but most pertinent here is that San Antonio owns their top-10 protected first-round pick next season. 

Atlanta Hawks: Is there a worthwhile trade offer out there?

The Hawks explored Dejounte Murray trades at the deadline and, so far as we know, did not receive an offer that included multiple first-round picks. The field has more picks to offer in the offseason as the seven-year clock moves back another year, but it's unclear how much interest remains around the league. Trae Young is better and younger, but he comes with so many exploitable weaknesses that in an era in which the Celtics just won a championship built around a team where everyone could shoot and defend, it's really not clear how much value a non-defender who doesn't move off of the ball can still even have. One of these two has to go. They simply do not fit together. But how does Atlanta respond if there just isn't a good offer on the table for either?

Brooklyn Nets: Do they understand how badly they need to trade Mikal Bridges?

Brooklyn's goal is seemingly to find a star scoring guard to pair with Bridges. The question then becomes ... so what? What is, say, a Donovan Mitchell-Mikal Bridges pairing, especially once Bridges starts making fair market value? A No. 5 seed? Certainly not an expected conference finalist. Brooklyn's path here should be to the bottom, not the top. It has a very limited window to get there. Houston seems interested in sending the Nets' draft picks back for Bridges ahead of a very highly regarded 2025 draft. Get those picks now, tank for a few years, and suddenly you have the complete young talent base to actually take that swing, but the Nets have resisted all overtures so far. Will they eventually realize how directionless they are and actually accept the reality of this situation?

Toronto Raptors: Can anyone emerge as a co-star?

The recently extended Scottie Barnes was an All-Star last season. That's a great start. But the Raptors have spent the past year or so trading for younger players hoping that they could transcend their previous performances in bigger roles. Immanuel Quickley was a backup in New York but the primary ball-handler in Toronto. RJ Barrett is an offensive centerpiece instead of an afterthought. Even Ochai Agbaji got a second chance as a lottery pick with the Raptors. It's an interesting approach, essentially a bet on their own player-development staff to build a star instead of going out and paying fair price to get one. Will it pay off? The Raptors have a strong track record on this front, but these are all very unproven commodities.

Charlotte Hornets: Will they start defending?

Mark Williams is excluded from this question. He might make an All-Defense team some day. Would anyone else in Charlotte like to join him? This isn't just a matter of roster. P.J. Washington went from an afterthought in Charlotte to a defensive ace in Dallas. LaMelo Ball has never bothered with that end of the floor in the NBA. Can Charles Lee actually convince these younger players to work hard on defense?

Washington Wizards: Can they find a way to just be normal?

The Wizards are going to be bad. Fine. They're early in a rebuild. It happens. What they can't have again is Jordan Poole holding the ball while seated on the floor and considering shooting before he gets up, or Johnny Davis bonking wide-open layups, or Kyle Kuzma mismanaging the end-of-game clock. The bar is so low here. Just be bad. Normal bad. Not Washington Generals bad. It would be nice to get a few veterans in the building to facilitate the new and hopefully improved Wizards.

Detroit Pistons: Can they balance out the roster?

Detroit is almost the bad version of the Cavaliers. They have a lot of young perimeter players who struggle as shooters (Cade Cunningham, Jaden Ivey, Ausar Thompson). They have a lot of highly drafted big men (Isaiah Stewart, Jalen Duren, potentially James Wiseman returning). They just don't have a lot of versatile, do-it-all wings to make those players work. The Pistons need to find shooting in order to create real driving lanes for their guards. They need veterans to instill better defensive habits. The roster doesn't make sense as currently constructed. They hired Trajan Langdon to fix that.