How Will the Eastern Conference Playoffs Shape Out?

Making Sense of the Eastern Conference

11/26/12 in NBA   |   Andrew_Ericksen   |   230 respect

Nov. 26, 2012; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) gestures to Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams (8) during the second half at the Barclays Center. Nets won in overtime 96-89. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRENo more Howard.  Rose on the sidelines.  Bynum on the sidelines.  Pierce and Garnett another year removed from their prime.  Who is left in the East to compete with the Heat? 
 
Here are the current standings in the Eastern Conference as of Monday night:

1. Miami
2. Brooklyn
3. New York
4. Milwaukee
5. Atlanta
6. Charlotte
7. Philadelphia
8. Boston 

Chicago, Indiana, Orlando, Cleveland, Detroit, Toronto, and Washington round it out in that order.
 
Which teams are in the top-8 to stay?  Which teams are moving up?  Which teams are moving down?
 
1. Miami – No movement
 
The conference is Miami’s to lose.  With a healthy Rose, things may have been different and I could see a team like New York or Brooklyn giving them a fight for the top seed, but at the end of the day, your money has to be on Miami to snag the 1-seed in the East this year.
 
2. Brooklyn – No movement
 
Their overtime victory against cross-state rival New York was just one of many enticing duels to come.  I think the Nets edge out the Knicks for the 2-seed based on having more of a balanced core of players and the veteran leadership from their backcourt, but either way, Brooklyn will most likely be on the top-half of the playoff bracket in the East.
 
3. New York – No movement
 
Anthony is playing some of the best basketball of his career and that alone could lead the Knicks to a top-2 seed, but I’m penciling them in at 3 for now because I’m just not too sure about his support apart from the steady defense of Chandler.
 
4. Milwaukee – Down
 
7-5 isn’t usually something to be too excited about, but when you’re a team that’s only finished over .500 once since 2003, it’s actually quite a big deal.  Skiles is currently letting his backcourt run wild and the results have been mostly good so far, but there’s just not enough frontcourt support or overall depth to keep Milwaukee in the 4-spot.  I see them as a 7 or 8 seed at best.

November 23, 2012; Charlotte, NC, USA; Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith (5) signals to a teammate during the game against the Charlotte Bobcats at Time Warner Cable Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Sharpe-US PRESSWIRE5. Atlanta - Down
 
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). 
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