Saturday , Jan , 29 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Mid-Season Grades: Eastern Conference

Atlantic Division

Standings             vs.     My Predictions
1. Boston              >>         1. Philadelphia
2. Philadelphia      >>         2. Toronto
3. Toronto             >>          3. Boston
4. New York           >>          4. New York
5. New Jersey         >>         5. New Jersey

With the mediocrity of the division, it is till anyone’s to win. Any significant personnel move will affect the finish. However, as long as Philly has AI, they’ll be the answer in the end, but don’t sleep on the emergence of Skip to My Lou.

Central Division Standings     vs.      My Predictions
1. Cleveland                                >>         1. Indiana
2. Detroit                                   >>         2. Detroit
3. Chicago                                  >>         3. Cleveland
4. Indiana                                  >>          4. Chicago
5. Milwaukee                              >>         5. Milwaukee

Everything looked good until Ron-Ron went into the stands. Suddenly, all Hell broke loose in the Central, and even Chicago turned its season around. I guess I nailed it when I said things to like, “Artest’s ferociousness;” things to dislike, “Artest’s penchant for imploding.”

Southeast Division Standings vs. My Predictions
1. Miami                                     >>         1. Miami
2. Washington                             >>         2. Orlando
3. Orlando                                  >>         3. Washington
4. Charlotte                                >>         4. Charlotte
5. Atlanta                                   >>         5. Atlanta

Who knew that it would take three former Golden State Warriors and an ex-Sacramento Kings Head Coach to turn around the Washington franchise? It looked good on paper, but the tarnished images of West Coast failure kept me from truly believing. Emeka Okafur really has been outstanding has surpassed every high expectation set forth. In two years, this will be the dominant division in basketball if Shaq stays healthy and Larry Hughes stays in the nation’s capital. Atlanta will still be the Hawks, but the other four will reign supreme.

On to the Second Half…
With rumblings of potential trades in Indiana, Atlanta, Boston, Philly, New Jersey, New York and elsewhere, this conference is anything but a sure thing. Beyond Miami, Cleveland and Detroit, anything is possible. Indiana needs its stars Jermaine O’Neal and Jamal Tinsley to step-up to get the Pacers back into contention. Stephon Marbury has the opportunity to prove he is the best point guard in the game, not just the leading scorer among point guards. And, Antwan Jamison, Larry Hughes and Gilbert Arenas will have the opportunity to secure their stature as among the game’s best young players if they are able to do some good things in the play-offs. LeBron James seems likely to win his first of many MVP trophies, as he has completely laid the “Carmelo or LeBron” questions to rest.