A look at the race in the East
A quick look at the strongest NBA teams in the East this season.
1. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons have slowed down, there’s no getting around it. Their lack of a bench is already starting to effect them, and there’s 20 games left in the season still. It’s spilt milk, but had Joe Dumars made better draft selections in 03 and 05, and made a solid pickup with the MLE instead of Maurice Evans this team would probably be working on a 3 peat and have the 72-10 mark still within reach. Detroit can still get to the finals, but beating a very deep Miami team that is starting to roll will be extremely tough. They won’t lose homecourt in the East, but Spurs and Mavericks will likely finish with better records overall.
2. Miami Heat
It looked like a train wreck waiting to happen a few months ago, but this Miami team is starting to roll. It’s got two of the top 10 players in the NBA and a bench that is deeper than most oceans. Though they won’t catch Detroit in the race for homecourt, they may be the favorites by the time the series comes around.
3. New Jersey Nets
New Jersey will be a tough out, and should hold onto the 3 seed pretty firmly. They’ve got the ability to out run most teams in the East. However, their lack of a presence down low kills any chance of them being able to get past the big dogs, Miami and Detroit.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
With 20 games left, a collapse like they had last year is certainly possible, but unlikely. Lebron James is having a career year, just like he will next year, and is going to get this team in the playoffs. What they do from there though, is in his hand. If he’s the Lebron James that almost single handedly brought his team back from a 17 point defecit over the Suns they can do some damage in the playoffs. If he’s the Lebron James that has been catching flack for not doing enough in the 4th quarter, the first round could be as far as Lebron goes in his first trip to the playoffs.
5. Indiana Pacers
Saying "if this team can get healthy" is pointless because they’ve proven over the past two seasons that they cannot do it. If they can get semi healthy, which they can do for short periods of time, they can play with Detroit like Jermaine said. Right now they’d face Cleveland, and seeing how Stephen Jackson and Peja Stojakovic can’t guard a chair, let alone Lebron James, they’d have some problems. If they could get a first round matchup against Detroit though, that’d be fun to watch.
6. Washington Wizards
Washington’s got some good pieces, which just haven’t meshed together well enough yet. They’re starting to play better with Caron Butler having a career year and Gilbert Arenas being impressive as always but matching last years playoff series win this year for the Wizards is extremely unlikely though.
7. Philadelphia 76ers
When you look on paper, Philadelphia should be better than this. They’ve got the 2nd best scorer in the NBA, one of the better power forwards, on of the top young athletes, a good shot blocker, and a good spot up shooter. However, this team has trouble staying over .500. With the contracts that these guys have, trading them would be difficult, which probably means another coaching change ahead this off season after a quick post season exit barring any heroics from AI.
8. Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks have fallen off their top 4 pace that had the entire league talking about them at the beginning of the season. It’s tough to see them having any success in the playoffs, unless Michael Redd gets unGodly hot, but it’s been a very good season for a team that found themselves with the number one draft pick last year.
Team most likely to make it in:
There really isn’t one. The closest is the Chicago Bulls and they’re 7 games under .500. Third place in the Atlantic division is the Boston Celtics at 11 games under and third in the Southeast division is Orlando at a whopping 20 games under. Barring any major collapses and sudden winning streaks by any of these teams, the playoff teams in the East are pretty set.
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