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The Philadelphia 76ers went all in on a championship this season by trading for James Harden in February, but it’s not going to be a cakewalk to win a single series this postseason in the loaded Eastern Conference. The top six seeds in the East are at least 10 games over .500, and that doesn’t even include the 38-35 Brooklyn Nets.

With multiple title contenders residing in the Eastern Conference, there are no easy matchups for the Sixers to target. But if you ask shooting guard Danny Green, he believes there’s a sleeping giant in the East no one will want to see come playoff time.

The Eastern Conference will be a war in the playoffs

Normally in this league, you can pick out a few teams at the top of each conference that have a legitimate chance of reaching the NBA Finals. That’s not exactly the case for the East this year, as you could argue for at least eight of the 10 teams in the playoff picture to make a run to at least the Conference Finals.

At the top, the Miami Heat have held the No. 1 spot in the standings for a few months now. This is almost an identical roster to the one that reached the NBA Finals two years ago before falling to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games, and their elite defense gives them a good chance to beat anyone in their path.

After Miami, the 76ers, Boston Celtics, and Milwaukee Bucks are neck-and-neck fighting for the No. 2 spot. The new-look Chicago Bulls are three games behind that trio, and the upstart Cleveland Cavaliers are right in the mix. Oh, and don’t forget about the dangerous Nets in eighth place or a Hawks team that reached the Conference Finals last year.

Put simply, the East is going to be a war come playoff time, and the eventual winner will be a well-deserved one.

Danny Green targets a sleeping giant in the East

Danny Green shoots against the Grizzlies.
Danny Green of the Philadelphia 76ers shoots against the Memphis Grizzlies | Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images

Green’s Sixers have a great chance to make a deep run this year, but it won’t be easy getting past the Heat, Bucks, and Nets in the playoffs. Besides the top tier in the East, though, Green sees a sleeper in the conference every team should start worrying about: the Boston Celtics.

“I think that’s a team that might be the sleeper that comes out or gets to the Eastern Conference Finals when people don’t expect them to because they’ve been hooping,” Green said on a recent episode of his Inside the Green Room podcast. “They’ve been playing defense. Their offense has helped their defense because they’ve been playing a lot smoother, more together, which was interesting to me.

“If they keep playing like this, they’re going to be the team to beat.”

It’s a bold claim, but Green isn’t too far off. The Celtics are 28-9 since January 1, and they have the best defense in the NBA over that span. Boston also smoked Philadelphia by 48 points last month, so Green saw with his own eyes how scary this team is at its peak.

Are the Celtics really the team to beat in the East?

It’s easy to fall in love with what the Celtics have been doing lately. They’re not just beating teams. They’re utterly embarrassing them on a nightly basis. Boston is 10-1 in its last 11 games, and it dominated the Utah Jazz, Golden State Warriors, Denver Nuggets, and Memphis Grizzlies during that stretch.

The Celtics have officially entered the contender tier in the East, but it’s hard to place them above the Bucks or Nets as the team to beat in the conference.

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