The NBA season is a little over one month old. Much of the speculation and story lines from the offseason and preseason has come to fruition or been dismissed by evidence of the realities on the court. With that in mind Basketball Schedule assesses the 15 Eastern conference teams and their respective performances so far in the 2013-14 campaign.
1. Indiana Pacers (13-1)
Paul George has officially announced himself as a serious NBA superstar early this season. He is playing at an elite level and even as Danny Granger still struggles in his bid to overcome injury difficulties, the Pacers look like a serious challenger to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference. George Hill and Lance Stephenson are playing well in the back-court again, Roy Hibbert and David West are beasts on the front court. The depth is better throughout the roster with Luis Scola making a pretty good early bid for sixth man of the year. With or without Granger, Indiana are legitimate championship contenders.
2. Miami Heat (11-3)
LeBron James has started his season off pretty well averaging 26 points, 5.7 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game. Dwyane Wade has been a little bit up and down, but he has enjoyed some pretty dominant games. This still looks very much like the same team from the past two seasons though. Possibly impact players Michael Beasley and Greg Oden have hardly seen the floor. Can James, Wade and Chris Bosh hold off the challenge from the West and whichever team emerges from the loaded Western conference?
3. Atlanta Hawks (8-5)
Okay, so the Hawks still are clearly not serious contenders in the East. However, there are signs that the loss of Josh Smith wasn’t a disaster for this team last offseason. Jeff Teague has seriously stepped up averaging 8.8 assists and 18 points per game so far. Meanwhile, Paul Millsap and Al Horford form a reliable pair on the front court. The Hawks could well finish up as a top four seed in the East.
4. Toronto Raptors (6-7)
Not many teams with winning records in the Eastern conference. The Raptors have actually played reasonable basketball to start the season. Rudy Gay provides a front court scoring presence while DeMar DeRozan provides offense from the back-court. Depth remains a bit of a question mark, but this team should compete for a playoff spot.
5. Charlotte Bobcats (7-8)
Al Jefferson has made the Bobcats a much tougher team to play against. He rebounds well and remains one of the most potent inside offensive players in the NBA. Kemba Walker is doing a good job of running the offense, Charlotte are playing tougher defense and generally they’ve shot the ball better than probably expected. Still hard to see this roster making it into the postseason though.
6. Chicago Bulls (6-7)
It’s pretty difficult to project the Bulls right now. This team doesn’t have a back-court right now that is capable of getting it done like last season. Long-term knee issues for Derrick Rose are going to be a major concern for Chicago moving forward. In the short-term, they might be able to stay competitive by re-tooling, or they may elect to make some trades and blow up this current core.
7. Detroit Pistons (6-8)
Okay, so this team can definitely score the basketball and they’ve got decent options all over the court to do so. However, the Pistons playoff chances are going to be largely dependent on them playing better basketball at the other end of the court. Greg Monroe, Andre Drummond and Josh Smith should form one of the East’s more formidable front courts.
8. Washington Wizards (6-8)
The Wizards have similar problems to Detroit. John Wall and Bradley Beal will ensure that this team scores, but they are not efficient enough on the defensive end of the floor. This team has definitely been trending up over the last couple of weeks, which is promising in terms of their playoff prospects.
9. Philadelphia 76ers (6-9)
Reality has set in a little bit for the 76ers after that 4-2 start. However, Evan Turner is playing good basketball and rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams is clearly going to be a player for this franchise. A lot of people thought this franchise would bottom out this season, that doesn’t look so likely right now.
10. Boston Celtics (6-10)
The new era has started in Boston. Much as expected this is a losing team, but some of the organization’s young talent has performed solidly in the early going. It’ll be interesting to see how things develop when Rajon Rondo returns from his knee injury.
11. Orlando Magic (4-9)
Much like many of the Eastern conference’s other ‘mediocre’ teams, 2013-14 hasn’t been as bad as many might have expected for the Magic. They are doing a decent job offensively with Victor Oladipo showing off his skills and Nikola Vucevic getting some deserved extra attention. This team doesn’t look like it has any playoff credentials.
12. Cleveland Cavaliers (4-10)
A team that was supposed to be improved by the additions of Andrew Bynum, Anthony Bennett and Jarrett Jack hasn’t played great basketball so far. Poor starts from the likes of New York and Brooklyn along with D-Rose’s injury should have opened the door for the Cavaliers in the East. The young core of Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson have okay numbers, but they’re not getting it done in terms of wins right now.
13. New York Knicks (3-10)
Wow! This team has completely fallen to pieces. It’s difficult to know what to think about a line-up that should be better. Carmelo Anthony is scoring at a clip, but it isn’t helping right now. There’s good reason for Knicks’ fans to be worried about this season.
14. Brooklyn Nets (3-10)
Deron Williams will make this team a lot better when he is healthy. Right now too much is being asked of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce making last summer’s blockbuster trade look like a complete dud. Still very difficult to see this team competing with the best in the conference, but they should still turn it around and make the playoffs. They might advance a round if they can somehow get into the top six seeding.
15. Milwaukee Bucks (2-11)
Rough start for the Bucks. They still have the sort of team that could get back into contention for those bottom playoff spots in the Eastern conference, but everything that could go wrong has gone wrong for this team so far in 2013-14.