The Eastern Conference isn’t necessarily “bad” so far this season. It’s not good, but it has plenty of teams with very nice records to look at. It’s just that those good records are not held by teams that makes any sense. I don’t know, man. I guess this might just be the way it is this year.
1. Boston Celtics | 12-2 (+8.2 point differential)
The Celtics are never going to lose again and Kyrie is somehow an MVP candidate despite having worse numbers than last year. I don’t get it, man.
2. Detroit Pistons | 10-3 (+5.3 point differential)
The Pistons are currently boasting a five-game winning streak and they just keep trucking along. One might’ve thought that the win against Golden State would’ve led to the team easing off the gas, but they haven’t. Reggie Jackson is alive again and Andre Drummond is facilitating weirdly well 3.2 assists per game). Maybe we jumped the gun on Stan Van Gundy’s tenure in Detroit being a failure.
3. New York Knicks | 7-5 (+1.4 point differential)
The Knicks have won seven of their last 10 heading into their matchup with the Cavaliers on Monday night. It seems like excising Derrick Rose and Carmelo Anthony is infinitely helpful for a roster, even if you’re replacing them with Jarrett Jack and Doug McDermott. Brad Stevens will steal all the headlines, but Jeff Hornacek will probably find himself on some Coach of the Year ballots if this continues.
4. Orlando Magic | 6-4 (+2.7 point differential)
The Magic are settling into what they’re going to be for the rest of the season: slightly inconsistent, and dependent on their three-point shot falling. In wins, they’ve made 12.4 threes per game while hitting 44.8 percent of them. In losses, that drops a full 10 percent to 34.8. That’s still a respectable number, but you’re not going to blow teams out of the water with that and they don’t have the chops elsewhere to survive.
5. Washington Wizards | 7-5 (+4.4 point differential)
6. Toronto Raptors | 7-5 (+4.4 point differential)
The Raptors and Wizards are fundamentally the same team right now with regards to quality. Neither is a sexy newcomer, but both are still among the East’s elite and would likely be favored against any team ahead of them on these rankings in a playoff series. Still, a loss to Kyrie-less Boston is a bad, bad look for the Raptors.
7. Cleveland Cavaliers | 6-7 (-3.2 point differential)
The Cavaliers are finding their rhythm and putting together some decent games, but sometimes, a win isn’t up to you. They played well against Houston and lost anyway, while scraping by the Mavs to avoid falling to 5-8.
8. Milwaukee Bucks | 6-6 (-1.5 point differential)
The Bucks are integrating Eric Bledsoe, and while there’s been some bumps (Bledsoe is shooting 36 percent from the field and averaging four turnovers), he’s still got enough juice to make the Bucks a scarier team than they were prior to the trade.
9. Philadelphia 76ers | 6-6 (-1.9 point differential)
The 76ers gave the Warriors everything they could handle in the first half, but the quality difference was exposed later in the game, and losing games to Sacramento means you plummet in these rankings.
10. Miami Heat | 6-7 (-1.2 point differential)
Miami is still fairly mediocre, but they’ve clawed their way back up towards .500 after a rough start to the year. Hassan Whiteside appears to be finding his groove after being benched against Golden State.
11. Indiana Pacers | 6-8 (-1.1 point differential)
Indy is fine, ultimately. They’re not great, but Victor Oladipo and Myles Turner are going to keep them in games. Why they would have constructed this kind of roster that will prevent them from getting a high draft pick is baffling to me, but then, I’m not an NBA general manager.
12. Charlotte Hornets | 5-7 (-1.5 point differential)
The Hornets have lost four straight and they really miss Nicolas Batum’s help on offense. They went completely stale against a Kyrie-less Boston team and blew a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter because they couldn’t generate a moderately open look. Kemba’s awesome, but he needs help.
13. Brooklyn Nets | 5-8 (-3.9 point differential)
The Nets have overperformed this season, but a quick glance at their upcoming schedule (without D’Angelo Russell for at least part of it) should put Cavs fans at ease.
I’m feeling good about the Nets pick pic.twitter.com/vOQKWbjlit— Charged Up Chopz (@Pchopz_) November 13, 2017
14. Chicago Bulls | 2-9 (-10.3 point differential)
The Bulls stink as much as we thought they would. They just might not stink as bad as the Mavericks or Hawks, which is a bummer for their tanking hopes. They’ve also played an absolutely brutal schedule: They’ve played the Spurs and Raptors twice, hosted the Thunder and the Pelicans, and visited the Cavaliers and Heat. There are some winnable games there, but given the toughness of the schedule, it’s not surprising.
15. Atlanta Hawks | 2-11 (-8.3 point differential)
Before the season I thought Mike Budenholzer’s system would squeak out some undeserved wins for this roster. I might’ve been asking too much of ol’ Mike.