At the least lately, you could argue that Boston has been better than the Raptors. They’ve won seven of their last 10 and Isaiah Thomas has been pure fire. If they can keep this up, they could better separate themselves from the East’s middle pack sooner rather than later.
4. Washington Wizards
There are reasons to doubt the Wizards. They probably are missing a useful wing or two. They are a woeful 5-14 on the road. But, especially of late, Washington looks like a team that should keep trending upward.
This is a team that’s over .500 against the East and have an 82 percent chance of making the playoffs after being as a low as 23 percent earlier this season. And John Wall is the main reason why.
Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and other have all been a part of Washington’s turnaround, but Wall is one really driving everything forward. Say what you will about his shooting, but he’s averaging career highs in assists and points. He’s also carrying a huge burden of the Wizards’ playmaking responsibilities in the process. In a crowded group of East guards, he should be an All-Star.
He’s also doing stuff like this seemingly every night:
Are the Wizards perfect? No and it’s possibly they could regress between now and the playoffs. But right now, there may not be no hotter team in the East. As they fight for positioning in the crowded middle, that matters.
Currently 2.5 games up on the No. 4 seed Wizards and 4.5 games up on the No. 8 seed Bulls. As long as they keep Paul Millsap, it seems possibly that they’ll stay in the playoff picture. It also wouldn’t be too hard for them to tank.
8. Chicago Bulls
10. Detroit Pistons
Winners of three straight and within a game of the East’s No. 8 seed. Not quite what many expected, but maybe things are starting to pick up for the Pistons. It’ll be interesting to see how exactly they finish as compared to the other teams in the Central Division. Oddly enough, the Pistons, Bucks, Pacess and Bulls are in a row in the standings and separated by just 2.5 games.
11. Orlando Magic
12. Philadelphia 76ers
Huh, the 76ers have separated themselves from the bottom third of the East. And Ben Simmons might come back soon, you say?
No matter what Joel Embiid’s Instagram captions say, this team isn’t going to make the playoffs. But they are both fun and improving. That’s enough. #TrustTheProcess
13. New York Knicks
The Knicks have lost several close games lately, but that shouldn’t really disguise what is a pretty bad team. They did recently beat the Celtics, but New York’s situation feels sort of hopeless. Carmelo Anthony is showing some serious signs of age, they are just barely decently enough to not have a bottom-five defense and nothing is really working all that well.
Just look at this Rose defensive possession. It’s the most Knicks video I can possibly think of:
Derrick Rose didn't even come close to trying on defense. pic.twitter.com/X5aZsJwhyr— DeAntae Prince (@DeAntae) January 19, 2017
Remember when someone argued that the Knicks were the Cavs’ biggest threat and they were as high as No. 3 East?
14. Miami Heat
15. Brooklyn Nets
Right now, Brooklyn is the worst team in the NBA by four full games. And Anthony Bennett still couldn’t stick.
Related: Markelle Fultz is going to look great in Celtics jersey.