NBA: What On Earth Is Going On With the Eastern Conference?

The Indiana Pacers are tremendous. The Miami Heat look fantastic also. Beyond those two teams the East is…uh…weak.Eastern

You’ve got the Hawks. They’re going to make the playoffs like they always do–with a decent but unspectacular record. They’ve bid farewells to Joe Johnson and then, this off-season, Josh Smith. Coaches like Mike Woodson and Larry Drew come to Atlanta and then float away. But it doesn’t seem to matter much in ATL. They’re always just good enough, though they’ve produced nary a legitimate contender. This year’s team is no different.

The Chicago Bulls looked like contenders, until their title hopes were dashed by another deflating injury to Derick Rose. They still have the talent to make the playoffs, although plenty of folks are calling for the Bulls to tank.

The super team in Brooklyn? They’ve stunk and struggled with injuries. Deron Williams has barely seen the court. Brook Lopez has played sparingly due to injuries. Paul Pierce broke his hand. Kevin Garnett is shooting 36% from the field. Joe Johnson has been good, but he hasn’t been good enough to stop the Nets, who’ve played porous defense , from stumbling out to a 5-12 start. Until the Nets get healthy and start playing well, there’s no reason at all to consider them contenders.

The only good news for Nets fans is that they’ve not been the cross-town Knicks. Mike Woodson’s team has been just about as bad as any, despite nightly herculean efforts from star Carmelo Anthony. Melo’s not getting much help. Iman Shumpert has yet to take the step forward people were hoping for. J.R. Smith stopped making shots. Like, literally stopped. He’s hitting on less than a third of his field goals. And the Knicks’ once formidable defense has struggled without center Tyson Chandler. The surprisingly steady production the Knicks are getting from Andrea Bargnani hasn’t been enough, and the Knickerbockers are digging themselves quite a hole.

Then there’s Toronto. They’ve been objectively bad this year, despite the scoring prowess of one Rudy Gay and his running mate, Demar Derozan. Still, the Raptors sit atop the pitiful Atlantic Division and will need a lot to go wrong to miss the playoffs. Let’s be honest though, there’s no real reason to get excited about the NBA’s only Canadian franchise and their 6-10 record.

The Wizards are certainly better than they’ve been the past few years. But they still hold a sub-.500 record (the fourth best in the East…somehow) and play shoddy defense. They’re not contenders by any means. The Pistons are in a similar spot to the Wiz.

Beyond those teams stands a bunch of franchises with marginal talent. Charlotte might be playoff bound, only because the East is so weak. Orlando, Philly, Boston–bad, tankworthy teams. The Cavaliers have serious chemistry issues and might simply not be very good. Then there’s the crew in Milwaukee, which has done a delightful job tanking early on.

Don't blame this man, but the Knicks are 3-13.

Don’t blame this man, but the Knicks are 3-13.

As it stands right now, two teams in the Eastern Conference have winning records! TWO! With so many teams fielding rosters that scream we’re tanking, it’s at a point where a lot of Eastern Conference teams will only need to try to make the playoffs. And it’s unclear if any team is going to challenge the Pacers and Heat come playoff team. The Nets would seem the most likely candidate, but they’ve won less than 30% of their games so far.

If you want to watch good, competitive teams, I might direct you to the Western Conference. But there is something amusing and alluring about the state of the Eastern Conference, where the race to the bottom is more competitive than the race to the top.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “NBA: What On Earth Is Going On With the Eastern Conference?

  1. Tony Sparber(went to high school with your mom)

    Don’t see how you can give Mello a pass with the Knicks to me he is a major part of the problem and you describe his herculean efforts I have to scoff to me since he came over from Denver he has done nothing but play selfish basketball and cause rifts on the team check the record before and after the trade the Knicks made with Denver and the directions of the two franchises Mello is all about Mello if I am in charge I trade him now and get some draft picks.

    • Thanks for the comment!

      I wouldn’t put any blame on Melo for the current state of the Knicks–he’s carrying a ridiculous share of the offensive load (26 ppg on a team that only scores 93 ppg) and is the only guy who has been rebounding well on the team (10 per game, more than any other year in his career). The Knicks are asking a ton from him, and I would say he’s been providing. In the near-win against Indiana he was absolutely unbelievable. Defensively, he’s been very good for a player shouldering so much of the offensive load. I also would add that, with regards to the Knicks’ record since acquiring him, New York made their first playoff appearance since ’04 in Melo’s first season in New York (2011) and have made the playoffs every year since. Obviously, last year was the most successful.

      I agree that the Knicks should consider dealing Melo. Their current team does not appear to be one capable of making a deep playoff run and a roster overhaul may be in order.

      • Tony Sparber(went to high school with your mom)

        The problem is Mello feels he does need to take the offensive load into his own hands and does not make the guys on his team better the true test of a great player is how he effects the other guys on the team Mello has the ball in his hands constantly and averages like 2 assists a game he has missed 14 out of his last 15 potential tying or game winning shots his scoring average is inflated because of the plethora of shots he takes Basketball like all sports is a team game stats are meaningless when you are 3-13 and have lost 9 in a row I follow the Knicks and watch them whenever I can Mello along with JR are two guys that are really tough to watch if you like winning team basketball

      • I mean, we can agree that Melo’s not a great passer. But he’s doing everything else for a Knicks team that otherwise can’t seem score or rebound. As for J.R. Smith, he has been unbelievably bad. You have to wonder if Woodson will begin to taper his minutes at some point.

  2. Tony Sparber(went to high school with your mom)

    Woodson will be out the door if this thing does not turn around soon big article today about Jeff Van Gundy coming back to NY . I just don’t think you can say too many positives about a supposed superstar in the prime of his career whos the leader of a 3-13 team you would be hard pressed to find someone past or present that fits those criteria the truth is Mello is not the superstar he and many people think he is if you saw him play day in and day out the way I do you might see things differently..

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