Making Sense of the Eastern Conference
Without Joe Johnson, the Hawks have to lean too heavily on players that aren’t ready to step into the spotlight. While Horford and Smith are both solid up front, Teague and Williams still have some learning to do in the backcourt, and the rest of the roster has little to offer. I’m thinking a 6 or 7 seed for Atlanta this year.
6. Charlotte - Down
Despite matching last year’s win total a mere 12 games into the season, let’s not make too big a deal out of the 7-6 Bobcats. MKG has filled in nicely and Kemba has taken steps forward, but when the postseason comes around, this team will still be on the outside looking in.
7. Philadelphia - Up
The whispers about Bynum missing the entire season are definitely troubling, but the 76ers still have an athletic group of players led by one of the league’s most improved players in Jrue Holiday. They can even afford to package a few swingmen for a big man to replace Bynum the rest of the way. Either way, I see Philly somewhere around the 5-seed this year. And if Bynum comes back within a couple months, they’ll quite possibly be in the top 4.
8. Boston - Up
With Rondo, Pierce and Garnett, the Celtics still have a three-player core that few other Eastern Conference teams can equal. The supporting cast is still trying to earn their stripes, but Boston will be at least up in the top 4 or 5 when playoffs come around.
As for the current outsiders, Indiana will most likely find their way into the lower-half of the playoff bracket, Cleveland could push for a 7 or 8 seed, and if Rose returns with a month or so remaining in the season, Chicago should be on their way towards postseason games as well.
It should be a topsy-turvy race towards the playoffs in the East this year, so make sure to think twice if you’re putting down money anywhere (Unless it’s on the defending Champs as the top seed, of course).