How is the Eastern Conference Shaping Up?

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[Chicago Sports Daily]

As of December 14th,2015, the Eastern Conference is an astoundingly close conference. The 10th place Orlando Magic are Three and a half games back from the first place Cleveland Cavaliers. If you compare that to the Western Conference, the difference is remarkable. The first place Golden State Warriors are Fourteen games ahead of the 10th place Portland Trail Blazers. There are eleven teams that have are legitimate playoff possibilities. The New York Knicks, Milwaukee Bucks, Brooklyn Nets, and Philadelphia 76ers are not ready to compete for a playoff berth just yet. The Knicks do not have enough developed talent on both sides of the ball, other than Carmelo Anthony. The Milwaukee Bucks are too raw and lack shooters on offense. The Brooklyn Nets have very little youth and play poor defense. The Philadelphia 76ers have an abundance of youth, and centers, but do not have enough players with NBA talent. These four teams may be ready to compete in a few years, but only time will tell.

The Washington Wizards have enough talent to make the playoffs, but lack a gameplan and identity. They are not the defensive powerhouse that they were last year. The only positive part of their season has been the play of John Wall. If the Wizards want to make the playoffs, they will have to decide what type of team they are.

The Orlando Magic are a strong defensive team with a plethora of youth and talent, yet they are currently in 10th place. At this point in the season, no one knows for sure where this team will end up. They could be a 7th or 8th seed, or an 11th seed. With so much young talent, there has been serious crowding in both the frontcourt and backcourt. Therefore the coaches must find a way to manage these young players’ playing time so that the team may perform at the highest level.

The Atlanta Hawks will not stay in 9th place. They have too much talent and are too well coached to not make the playoffs. The loss of Demarre Carroll has absolutely weakened this team, however his loss will not cause them to miss the playoffs. The Hawks will not win 60 games this season, but they will have a comfortable spot in the middle of the pack and will not make it past the second round.

The Detroit Pistons are being carried by their defense. Andre Drummond has emerged as a bonafide superstar. The Pistons will not make the playoffs unless their offense can develop into a productive and effective one. The offense needs outside shooting to be effective. Van Gundy’s offensive scheme revolves around a dominant center, Drummond, and surrounding him with elite shooters. This offense worked wonders in Orlando with Dwight Howard. The Pistons need Reggie Jackson, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Brandon Jennings to post career highs in 3pt%. These three players are notorious for poor shooting and shooting efficiency. That must change if the Pistons are to make the playoffs.

The Boston Celtics are a playoff caliber team. They play solid defense, they are well coached, and they are unselfish players.This young squad has been molded into a solid Eastern Conference team by Brad Stevens. They won’t make it to the Eastern Conference Championship, but they can win some tough games and they can compete with anyone in the league. If this team wants to make the next step this year, they will need some excellent play from Marcus Smart and all of their big men.

The Miami Heat are going to make the playoffs. They have a solid core of veteran players who know how to win. Their starting line up is one of the best in the league. The only liability right now is the shooting of Justise Winslow. No one is expecting him to be an all-star in his first year, but his shooting from beyond the arc has been lackluster. The only issue for this Heat team, is whether Wade stays healthy for the season and the playoffs.

The Indiana Pacers have transformed from a hard-nosed iconic defensive team into a fast paced, small ball, score first team. Paul George has come back from his injury, and has not skipped a beat. He is still dominating on both sides of the ball. The true surprise for this team has been C.J Miles. He come in and filled the stretch four position perfectly. Miles and George have the offensive firepower to make their mark on the east this year, but the Pacers have to solidify their defense if they want to be an above average playoff team.

The Charlotte Hornets have been a complete surprise. Somehow they have improved their shooting and ball movement and have looked fantastic. They are playing team basketball on both sides of the court and have succeeded. Al Jefferson has actually hindered them and may have to be traded. The Hornets are better with him off the floor than they are with him on it. Whatever is in the water down in Charlotte, seems to be doing the trick.

The Toronto Raptors have picked up right where they left off. The team has looked very strong, even in the absence of Demarre Carroll. The Raptors do not play the most glamorous brand of basketball, but they play physical and somehow find ways to win. Derozan and Lowry form one of the strongest backcourts in the East. This team will continue to win games and make its mark on the league.

Somehow the Chicago Bulls rank second in the East. This team has had its struggles so far this year. It has a case of lost identity. Derrick Rose never will be the same player that won the MVP, Jimmy Butler has not taken control of the team and continues to be an inefficient shooter, Taj Gibson can be an offensive liability at times, and Doug Mcdermott has not played consistently. The team is not nearly has defensively sound as it was under Tom Thibodeau and has not flourished under an offensive minded head coach. The Bulls will need to improve mightily if they wish to make the playoffs.

The Cleveland Cavaliers may have struggled at times this year, but they have Lebron James. Lebron’s impact on the game cannot be quantified. He impacts the game in every way imaginable. He is unstoppable and will lead his team to victory in the regular season. If Lebron James is healthy, the Cavs will make the playoffs. Period.

 

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