Amazingly there are just three teams in the NBA’s Eastern conference with winning records at this time. Two of those – Miami and Philadelphia – possess 4-3 records, while the Indiana Pacers remain the league’s only unbeaten team at 7-0. Clearly this is not a situation that is likely to persist, but it is worth considering a few of the early things that we have learned from the East so far in the 2013-14 season.
Indiana Are Very Good
There was quite a bit of discussion entering the season as to whether the Pacers could seriously compete with the Miami Heat in the Eastern conference. The early signs are that they definitely will be able to. Paul George is playing the game like a true superstar, Lance Stephenson has upped his game, Luis Scola is providing a great sixth man presence and the bench depth is generally better. All of this and Danny Granger could still yet be added to this line-up. Indiana are a serious threat to win the NBA title in 2014. Their 7-0 start definitely is not a fluke.
Derick Rose Is Very Human
The Chicago Bulls were widely considered to be the other main contender against the Heat in the East. A lot of that competitive potential depended upon the return of superstar point guard Rose to a line-up that surprised a lot of people with a strong showing during the 2012-13 season.
Rose is known as a fierce competitor, but he has struggled all over the floor through the opening portion of the season. He is averaging just 4.0 assists and 14.4 points per game through five matches, both of which represents significant lows compared with recent years. There was a lot of discussion surrounding Rose’s injury and his comeback and a slow start to the year will do nothing to slow that discussion down. Is Rose still ailing from what was a very serious injury?
Brooklyn and New York May Struggle
This is not to say that the Nets and Knicks won’t be playoff teams, because it would be a huge surprise if they both were not. However, the early signs are that these two teams may not be serious contenders in the East. This is not purely based upon their identical 2-4 records, but really upon what has been seen on the floor.
The loss of Tyson Chandler for six weeks is a big blow to a New York team that already appears to have greater balance issues than last season. When the Knicks’ shooters are hot, they win basketball games. They will get hot and string together stretches of lots of wins again soon. However, that kind of reliance on shooting will always come unstuck in the playoffs. New York might be worse than last year and that is definitely not good news.
Meanwhile, Brooklyn’s big time second game win over Miami is already a distant memory. Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett already look a little slower than one year ago when they were already slow leaving Brooks Lopez and Deron Williams as the go-to guys once again. Depth remains a concern and there’s just a feeling that this team isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Mediocrity Still Reigns Supreme
Maybe the likes of Cleveland, Detroit and Washington will start showing the drastic improvements that many predicted of them before the season started, but it seems just as likely that the Eastern conference will simply continue to be mediocre. Teams like Philadelphia and Boston, who were fully expected to languish in the NBA’s basement, might not be quite as badly off as some predicted. The competition in the East may just be too weak to leave any team with a horrendous record.