LAS VEGAS -- The complexion of the NBA changed in a blink of an eye this past weekend when Kawhi Leonard elected to head to the West Coast.
The void he leaves behind in the Eastern Conference is a massive one. The Raptors will fall back in the pack with his departure, adding to a long list of teams that losing some firepower. The Bucks are still the heavy favorites with Leonard gone, but they lost a key weapon in Malcolm Brogdon in the backcourt. The Pacers added Brogdon and Jeremy Lamb but lost their starting frontcourt of Bojan Bogdanovic and Thaddeus Young. The absence of Victor Oladipo for most of the year should keep them in the middle of the pack. The Raptors will be replacing Leonard with the likes of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Stanley Johnson. The Nets will have Kyrie Irving aboard to replace D’Angelo Russell but will bring back essentially the same roster otherwise with DeAndre Jordan added to the mix and an injured Kevin Durant.
Even with Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier leaving with no compensation for them beyond a second-round pick (for Rozier), the Celtics still stand as the third co-favorite in the East along with the Pacers, Raptors and Nets, according to Vegas odds.
That’s not a bad outcome for Boston after seeing their two best players walk in free agency, but it’s still fair to wonder what could have been for this Celtics team if they had managed to retain their second-best player in Horford this offseason.