NBA Eastern Conference Update
Coming into a shortened 66 game NBA season, the storylines ran rampant. From Dallas finally using their gun-slinging offensive style to procure a title, to L.A.'s aging collapse in the playoffs and from the rise of Derek Rose to the absence of LeBron in the finals. Now that some of the dust has settled, and the 'Association' has finally gotten itself back on the hardwood, let’s take a widespread peek at the highs and lows of the NBA's Eastern Conference at the moment. Sure, we're less than a forth of the way into the season, but it's never too early for hyperbole on this writers keyboard.
We might as well start at the top, because relevance breeds discussion. The Southeast division is cluttered at the top with contenders, and while Miami is just third in that division (12-5, .5 games back), they are clearly the team to beat in the long run. They have boasted a 6-1 record WITHOUT their leader in Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh has stepped up insurmountably in his absence. The addition of Shane Battier for scoring and perimeter defense, along with the health of Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem will make this team a favorite by year’s end. And Eddy Curry, well, everyone makes mistakes now and then. Orlando and Atlanta are also teams worth mentioning from this division. The problem is, Orlando still hasn't found a rotation that can shoot consistently and stay fresh, and the Hawks have never added enough pieces to escape the first round of the playoffs. The Magic will get it together and be a top 5 team in the East all year, but the ATL is dealing with a huge injury to All-Star Al Horford and the loss in free agency of sharpshooter Jamal Crawford. Expect them to notch another first round exit this year. The Bobcats and Wizards round out this division. While Charlotte has a few talented guards, they can never escape the horrible job done in the front office by Michael Jordan, as much as it pains me to type that. And Washington has a few offensive bright spots as well, but John Wall's 'dougie' is still more impressive than his game.
Heading to the Central Division, I will get back to a more positive vision of Mr. Jordan, as I visit another powerhouse, in the Chicago Bulls. Chicago is my clear #2 seed in the East, as Boozer is undergoing a bit of resurgence, and Rip Hamilton fits nicely to fill the hole they've had at SG for quite a while. Not to mention the reigning MVP. Indiana also looks solid as a playoff bound franchise, but while Granger keeps improving, and Hansburough leads a tough interior for the Pacers, don't expect any upsets in May. Milwaukee is bland, despite the play of their leader PG, Cleveland is on the rise (Irving may prove me wrong as the real deal), and Detroit is an abysmally far cry from their championship years.
Then we close with the Atlantic division. Philly is the top dog here, and to be honest, I still don't know how they win games. Their 'team' play and energetic chemistry is lost on me, but that formula seems to be a winning system. They are my (and the East's official) #3 seed for now, but I don't prognosticate that to remain by season’s end. They are strong and solid, but teams like Boston and NY just have loads more experience and a better roster. While on the subject of these two teams, the problems are simple: age. NY still needs a legit healthy PG and needs to get Amar'e healthy, while Boston needs some wrinkle-cream faster than a Rondo cross-over. But as long as both make the playoffs (and they will, in this weaker conference), they are dangerous and could make a deep run. Jersey is still begging for Dwight Howard to become a contender, and Toronto is begging for contraction.
So there it is, my first attempt at breaking down the NBA's Eastern Conference. Here are my official top 10 rankings (which will gladly be released for debate/opinions/questions):
By: Jason Burke
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