The Eastern Conference is finally starting to make the teensiest bit of sense. The Cavaliers, Raptors and Wizards are moving up the standings while the Magic have fallen out of the East playoff picture entirely. Things are starting to come together, and while the Celtics have put together a completely wild winning streak, the Cavaliers have made their own push.
1. Boston Celtics | 16-2 (+8.1 point differential)
The Celtics have now won 16 straight but actually saw their point differential go down during the last week. Their greatest asset in this young season has been their performance in the clutch:
Boston has played the 2nd most "clutch" minutes in the NBA this season (5-point differential, last 5 minutes of a game) at 49 minutes— Carter Rodríguez (@Carter_Shade) November 21, 2017
Their net rating in those minutes is +29.0
You would expect that to even out at some point, but until then, the Celtics are never out of a game.
2. Toronto Raptors | 11-5 (+6.9 point differential)
The Raptors are on a fairly bonkers four-game win streak, defeating the Rockets, Pelicans, Knicks and Wizards. Kyle Lowry is finding his rhythm, and the rest of the young players on the rotation have turned into positive contributors. Nobody will ever talk much about the Raptors, but they’re a solid organization and they know how to win in the regular season.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers | 10-7 (+0.2 point differential)
The Cavs are storming up these rankings with a five-game winning streak. They’ve not been as impressive as you might prefer in three of those games, but they’re finding ways to win. The bench is outscoring the opposition when LeBron sits this year, and LeBron-based lineups are starting to find their juice as well.
4. Washington Wizards | 10-7 (+4.6 point differential)
The Wizards are who they are. Their bench is still mediocre, but their starters are so good it doesn’t matter. Via Akbar Naqvi, Bradley Beal leads all shooting guards in RPM, and Otto Porter is second among small forwards.
5. Detroit Pistons | 11-6 (+1.9 point differential)
The Pistons are in the midst of a brutal twelve game stretch that features nine games out of 12 on the road and two home games against the Cavaliers and Warriors. It’s pretty unfair, and the Pistons are likely getting exposed as a middle-of-the-pack East team as a result.
Via @WatchStadium, the Pistons are in the midst of a hilariously brutal part of their schedule pic.twitter.com/3S1Lg0W9c0— Carter Rodríguez (@Carter_Shade) November 21, 2017
6. Philadelphia 76ers | 9-7 (0.0 point differential)
Ben Simmons is so far ahead of the rest of the rookie class it’s not even funny. He’s leading rookies in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals. That’s bonkers. The only way he doesn’t win the Rookie of the Year is if he gets hurt. As it stands, everyone else is playing for second.
7. New York Knicks | 9-7 (+1.1 point differential)
The Knicks are still performing above expectations, but their last five games reveal a team that seem to be settling in as a slightly average team. They handled terrible teams in Sacramento, Utah without Rudy Gobert and the Clippers while taking losses to the Cavaliers and Raptors.
8. Indiana Pacers | 10-8 (+1.6 point differential)
The Pacers are still pretty damn good. Victor Oladipo has been really good, racking up 24.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.8 steals and 1.0 blocks per 36 minutes this season. Those are All-Star numbers.
9. Milwaukee Bucks | 8-8 (-3.1 point differential)
The Bucks don’t appear to be fixed by the addition of Eric Bledsoe, though he has shown flashes. A loss to Dallas is pretty damn ugly, but you can’t discount the four-game win streak that preceded it.
10. Charlotte Hornets | 7-9 (+0.1 point differential)
Karl-Anthony Towns made Dwight Howard look like 2008 Dwight Howard. The Hornets aren’t great, but they’re going to hover around .500 through the year, and Nicolas Batum is hugely helpful.
11. Orlando Magic | 8-9 (-1.5 point differential)
Earth, meet the Magic; Magic, meet the Earth. The Aaron Gordon three-point experiment has crashed and burned, as he’s shot 7-31 from three during Orlando’s five-game losing streak. Oh well, it was fun.
12. Miami Heat | 7-9 (-2.9 point differential)
The Heat have over 118 million in salary committed through 2020 for THIS team. Unbelievable.— Justin Rowan (@Cavsanada) November 21, 2017
13. Brooklyn Nets | 6-10 (-3.4 point differential)
The Nets have been frustratingly competitive despite playing with neither of their best two players in Jeremy Lin or Spencer Dinwiddie. Their schedule is tough, but they’re not giving games away.
14. Atlanta Hawks | 3-14 (-5.0 point differential)
15. Chicago Bulls | 3-11 (-9.4 point differential)
The Hawks leapfrog the Bulls in the rankings this week for literally no reason. These teams suck, and I’m bored. Sorry.