Sun. Dec 9th, 2018

How the Eastern Conference is Shaping up Early On

The Eastern Conference has long been known as the weaker of the two conferences in the NBA. It has also been under the rule of LeBron James for the past eight years.  Now that the king has left the East, this will be the most competitive the conference has been in recent memory. Here is how each Eastern Conference team stands heading into week 4 of the NBA season.

The Contenders

  • Toronto Raptors
  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • Boston Celtics
  • Indiana Pacers
  • Philadelphia 76ers

The Eastern Conference champion will almost certainly come out of this group of teams.  Each one of these teams has had a solid start to the 2018-2019 season and will most likely continue that as the year progresses. The Toronto Raptors seem to be the early favorite, starting 11-1 on the year so far. Kawhi Leonard has fit in nicely with what they do and has had an outstanding year so far on both offense and defense. The Milwaukee Bucks are a bit of a surprise here. Lead by Giannis Antetokounmpo, they finished 7th in the east last year. Their inability to shoot the three ultimately failed them, but this year they have shot the three ball at a much better percentage, with has contributed to their 8-2 record. The Boston Celtics fell one game shy of the NBA Finals last year without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Heyward. With both of them back this season, the Celtics have gotten off to a strong start.  The Celtics are one of the deepest teams in the entire NBA, look for them to make another playoff run this season. The Indiana Pacers are lead by Victor Oladipo who came off a break out season last year.  They are another deep team that is strong defensively and will be a challenge to beat come playoff time. Finally, the Philadelphia 76ers are a team built through its young core. Joel Embiid is having another outstanding year, and Ben Simmons is having a solid all around year (although he still cannot shoot). Fultz, has struggled thus far, and if these struggles continue this team will not be headed far. However, the Sixers addition of Jimmy Butler this weekend changes the entire landscape of the East and could move the Sixers to a one or two seed come playoff time.

The Middle

  • Charlotte Hornets
  • Miami Heat
  • Detroit Pistons
  • Brooklyn Nets

This group of teams are all fighting for a playoff spot, but will probably not make it any further. The Charlotte Hornets have gotten off to a solid start after missing the playoffs for a second straight year. They have won three games by 29+ points (most in the league), but have struggled to win close games. The Heat are an interesting team with no real star, but have several players who are outperforming their usual roll. Josh Richardson is the leading scorer averaging over 20 points a game, and Hassan Whiteside is playing solid defense and is a great rebounder. Along with those two, Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic are also solid scoring options for them. The Detroit Pistons started out hot going 4-0, but have fallen back to mediocrity going 1-5 in their last six games.  Blake Griffin and Andre Drummond cannot carry all the weight, but they still might be good enough for a playoff bid in the Eastern Conference. Lastly, the Brooklyn Nets have gotten off to a fairly promising start (5-6), after winning only 28 games last season. Caris LeVert has been a bright spot for this team averaging over 20 points a game. This is a team that could compete for the last playoff spot if they keep up their surprisingly good play so far.

The Rebuilders

  • Orlando Magic
  • New York Knicks
  • Atlanta Hawks
  • Chicago Bulls

These four teams are a year or two away from competing for a playoff spot. These teams have promising young talent that will hopefully amount to future success in the NBA.  The Magic have a weird situation among their young big men with Mo Bamba, Jonathan Isaac, and Aaron Gordon all on the team. They would like to have all three develop into young stars, but it is a bit awkward having them all at once with the big man not being as important as it used to be. The New York Knicks are still without their young star Kristaps Porzingis.  When he returns they will improve on their poor start to the season.  Kevin Knox also seems to be a good pick for them in the most recent NBA draft. He showed a lot of promise in the summer league and is just coming back from injury. The Atlanta Hawks are off to a 3-8 start to the season, but Trae Young has been a bright spot so far. He is in the thick of the rookie of the year race averaging over 18 and 8 assists a game. This year will mostly be dedicated to developing him as the rest of the roster is nothing to brag about. Finally, the Chicago Bulls are a very young team that will hopefully develop for years to come.  Although they are just 3-9, they have six players averaging in double figures, including Zach LaVine who is averaging 27.

The “What are you doing” teams

  • Washington Wizards
  • Cleveland Cavaliers

The Washington Wizards have long been a dead end franchise, throwing out the same team every year, expecting different results. They have gone to the playoffs four out of the past five years, but have never made it past the second round.  However, this year they might have hit a new low. They have started just 2-8 and John Wall and Bradley Beal have been very inefficient. They are 26th in the league in three point percentage and 22nd in the league in field goal percentage.  Do not be surprised if this team is blown up after this year, if not sooner. Lastly, to no one’s surprise, the LeBron James-less Cavaliers are nothing short of awful. They have won just one game and have no real young talent aside from Collin Sexton. They have already fired former head coach Ty Lue, but I do not think that was the problem. Personally, I do not know what direction this team is headed towards after this season.

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