With the 2018-19 NBA season now down to its last four weeks, the real work now starts for general managers as they prepare for what could be a game-changing offseason.

For teams in the bottom half of the standings, early March is just the right time to begin assessing everything that went down during the season, whether it’s good or bad. The point here is to come up with an early game-plan for the upcoming NBA draft and free agency.

Several NBA analysts are predicting a shift of power next year, expecting high profile free agents to go from West to East.

With the Western Conference playoff race turning into a bloodbath again, many of these elite free agents could favor a much weaker conference where there’s a much wider path towards the NBA Finals. That’s why everybody’s eyes are on a handful of East teams, especially glamour franchises like the New York Knicks, Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat, and Boston Celtics.

So which Eastern Conference teams could assemble the next super lineup in the East? Here are the four logical candidates.

Boston Celtics

We start this list with the most obvious team: the Boston Celtics. Despite their much-publicized hiccups this season, the Celtics still strike fear into the hearts of any contender simply because they have enough talent to topple even the No.1 team in the league – the Golden State Warriors.

Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, and Al Horford are already potent starting five, but what if the Celtics managed to snag Anthony Davis in an offseason trade, and they somehow did it without giving away Tatum?

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NBA Boston Celtics

As insanely unstoppable as Golden State’s lineup of death has been these last three years, a starting unit that features Irving, Tatum, and Davis would be the game-changer of all game-changers. They would easily dissimilate the East and enter as favorites against whoever comes out of the West. That’s how good the Celtics would be if they land Davis.

Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers took a giant leap in the “process” by trading for All-Star wingman Jimmy Butler and stretch power-forward Tobias Harris this season.

After returning in the postseason last year, general manager Elton Brand sensed that the team is now ripe to make a deep playoff run in a wide-open Eastern Conference.

And just like that, in a blink of an eye, Philadelphia has transformed into a superteam with four legit All-Star caliber starters (Harris, Butler, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons). JJ Redick may not be All-Star material, he nevertheless makes the team better with his outside sniping and underrated perimeter defense.

All in all, this Sixers squad is a tier-1 team on paper. They have the size, length, athleticism, and firepower to go toe-to-toe with any of the league’s top teams in a seven-game series.

Still, the biggest obstacle that lies ahead is how Brand can keep this core with Harris and Butler set to become unrestricted free agents this July. Teams with ample cap space like the Knicks and the Nets will go hard at these two players in the open market. However, Sixers owner Joshua Harris assured that he’s willing to go deep into his pocket just to keep the group intact.

Brooklyn Nets

Nets general manager Sean Marks has done a phenomenal job ever since he took over the team. He pulled off a series of trades with the purpose of clearing burdensome contracts off the books, and at the same time, taking chances on high-upside young players. This method enables the Nets to acquire intriguing prospects to offset the loss of three first-round picks as a result of the controversial 2013 trade involving Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.

Now, the Nets have formed a solid young core led by first-time All-Star D’Angelo Russell, whom Brooklyn acquired in a salary-dump deal with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2017. Spencer Dinwiddie, a second-round pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, has turned into a nice complementary piece alongside Russell in the backcourt after struggling to find a home in his first few seasons in the league. The Nets locked him up for three more years ($34 million), allowing them to focus on the restricted free agency of Russell and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson this summer.

According to one NBA executive, Russell could command a contract worth $20 million per year. The Nets’ projected payroll heading to this summer stands at $45 million. Even if Brooklyn signed Russell to a max deal, the team would still have around $25 to $30 million cap space left. This number could get even higher if they find a way to unload Allen Crabbe, who has an $18 million player option for 2019-20 NBA season. They can use this amount of money to sign a bona fide superstar like Kevin Durant, Jimmy Butler or even Kawhi Leonard.

Although the Knicks already created two max slots for this summer, several NBA pundits aren’t quite sure if they can attract two superstars together given how depleted their current roster is. As for the Nets, they already have a strong foundation in place with Russell, Dinwiddie, Joe Harris, Caris Levert and still improving Jarret Allen. For a star player seeking stability coming in, Brooklyn would be a better choice based on the personnel they already got.

New York Knicks

The Knicks pulled the trigger on perhaps the biggest gamble in the franchise’s history by trading their resident superstar Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for essentially a young point guard (Dennis Smith Jr.)and a boatload of cap space (two max slots) for this summer. New York is now banking on the idea that their status as a big market franchise would attract two legit superstars.

As early as now, the names of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are being hurled out there as the two superstars likely ending up at the Madison Square Garden. Irving admitted that he was eyeing New York when he made a trade request from the Cavaliers in 2017. Durant, on another hand, has shown some enthusiasm for playing for a prestigious franchise. Should Irving and Durant wind up as teammates, this would propel the Knicks back to the top of the Eastern Conference hierarchy.

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