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Fear the Links: understanding the rest of the Eastern Conference

The Cavs are on top of the East and will likely stay that way. So how good is the rest of the Eastern Conference.

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are currently two games up on the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference. After that, however, the gap widens.

The Atlanta Hawks, the current No. 3 seed, are seven games back of the Cavs, as are the No. 4 seed Boston Celtics. From there, it's a jumbled mess with the Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers. Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Hornets all within a few games of one another. Even below those teams, the Washington Wizards, New York Knicks and Orlando Magic are still technically in the thick of things.

Really, who the Cavs will face in the playoffs is still up for grabs and it's a situation that will develop over and over again over time. Right now, the Cavs face the Pistons in round one, followed by a series against the winner of the Celtics-Heat series if they were able to get past Detroit.

That's going to change, so with the help of some links, it's time to start making sense of the rest of the Eastern Conference.

Over at the Vertical, front office guru Bobby Marks wrote a guideline to the Celtics' trade deadline. Boston's already been linked to Dwight Howard and there's an argument to be made that the Celtics have the best assets of any team that's looking to upgrade their roster in a meaningful way.

For At The Hive, Nicklaus Denning analyzed how Jeremy Lin's playmaking broke down the Cavaliers' defense. There's a lot about Lin's play that the other teams could replicate against the Cavs.

For Detroit Bad Boys, Sean Corp wrote about how the Pistons can survive Kentavious Caldwell-Pope's injury and exactly what the Pistons need to do if they want to make the playoffs.

Over at Hardwood Paroxysm, Chris Barnewall wrote about how the Hawks need to consider risk vs. reward at the trade deadline.

In Bulls news, Jimmy Butler suffered a knee strain and there's no timetable for his return. That's a huge blow for the Bulls, who need Butler to function at their highest level and are already a bit inconsistent as is. As Ricky O'Donnell noted at Blog A Bull, however, Fred Hoiberg really hasn't been able to work with the right kind of talent yet.

At Raptors HQ, Sean Woodley wrote about how Terrence Ross is improving on defense in both flashy and subtle ways.

At HP, Kevin Yeung wrote about how in year four, Jonas Valanciunas is finally getting better.

Lastly, HP's Phillip Rossman-Reich wrote about how the improved Eastern Conference is leveling off.

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