ESPN panelists rank 3 teams above Miami Heat to win Eastern Conference this season

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The Miami Heat were just one game away from advancing to the 2022 NBA Finals last season. They got that far despite a number of injuries to key players in the playoffs.

Despite that level of success, the Heat have not been pegged as a top favorite to win the Eastern Conference in the upcoming campaign.

In fact, ESPN panelists recently gave better odds to the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers when it comes to who they think will win the conference championship next season.

“Two teams that battled through last season’s epic seven-game conference semifinals series check in as the East’s favorites to reach the 2023 NBA Finals,” the site’s NBA insiders wrote. “The reigning conference champion Celtics and the 2021 NBA champion Bucks emerge as the clear front-runners, according to ESPN’s Summer Forecast panel. Boston keeps its core while adding former Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon, and Milwaukee returns to full strength after losing All-Star Khris Middleton in the opening round of the 2022 playoffs.

“Sitting at third on our panel’s list are the Philadelphia 76ers, who will have a full season of the James Harden-Joel Embiid partnership and welcome defensive stalwart P.J. Tucker into the mix.

“Tucker’s former team, the Miami Heat, check in fourth despite retaining the bulk of the roster that went to Game 7 of the East finals last season.

“Not in the picture? The [Brooklyn] Nets, who despite still having Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on the roster could be due for a massive shake-up by the time the 2023 playoffs roll around.

“1. Boston Celtics: 67 points (42.1% of first-place votes)

“2. Milwaukee Bucks: 55 points (36.8%)

“3. Philadelphia 76ers: 28 points (10.5%)

“4. Miami Heat: 19 points (10.5%)

“T-5. Cleveland Cavaliers: 1 point

“T-5. Toronto Raptors: 1 point”

Perhaps the only real surprise on the list is that the 76ers were given better odds than the Heat. After all, the 76ers have failed to advance deeply in the playoffs for many years. They actually haven’t made it past the second round of the playoffs since the 2000-01 season.

As for the Heat, they’ve enjoyed far more success in just the past few years. They won the Eastern Conference in the 2019-20 season and came up just short of that same achievement last season.

While the Heat may be a bit low, even fans of the franchise would likely admit that the team is not quite where it needs to be to win a title.

The team’s front office seems to think that as well. After all, the Heat have been connected to stars like Kevin Durant and Donovan Mitchell in trade rumors this summer. Clearly, the organization is looking to make a big move to add another elite talent before the upcoming regular season begins.

If it can accomplish that goal, there is little doubt that the Heat would see their odds take a substantial bump.

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Jonathan is a freelance writer, filmmaker, and passionate fan of the NBA. In the past Jonathan has covered politics, entertainment, travel, and more. He is a proud contributor of Heat Nation.