Well, most teams have played 41 games, thus meaning we are pretty much at the halfway part of the season.
So where is the East placed at the midway part of the season?
The East was seen as the weaker conference, but so far, it’s not looking like that is necessarily the case. Giannis has been superb again this season and is pushing for back to back MVPs, whilst Jimmy Butler has turned Miami into a legitimate contender. Boston has impressed as well, and the top 3 looks as strong as anyone. In 4th is Toronto who have managed to maintain their championship form of last season despite losing Kahwi Leonard
The big shock has been how poor the 76ers have been to date considering they were seen by many, including this writer, as the threat to not only Milwaukee’s chances of winning the East, but as a genuine title threat.
The Standings (as at 18-1)
1 Milwaukee Bucks 37-6
2 Miami Heat 28-12
3 Boston Celtics 27-13
4 Toronto Raptors 27-14
5 Indiana Pacers 27-15
6 Philly 76ers 27-16
7 Orlando Magic 20-22
8 Brooklyn Nets 18-22
9 Detroit Pistons 15-27
10 Chicago Bulls 15-28
11 Charlotte Hornets 15-29
12 Wash. Wizards 13-28
13 Cleveland Cavs 12-29
14 New York Knicks 11-31
15 Atlanta Hawks 9-32
The Bucks (37-6) are the clear favorites in the East, with Giannis dominating again and looking at 2nd successive MVP. With no Kahwi to stop him, you wonder just who can stop the Greek Freak? Probably need to make a trade, as I’m not sure Bledsoe is the point to take them to the title so will be interesting if they make a play there. Either way, this is the team the East has to beat to play off for the Championship.
The one side I think that can stop them are the 76ers (27-16), however they are slumping, despite some recent wins and having lost Embiid for several weeks with a finger injury you wonder if they can actually make it far enough in to the finals to make the damage. They are a weird team with the height they have, and the lack of shooters, but the Bucks will know though, with the 76ers height and defensive ability, that they are the one side in the East that can consistently stop Giannis in the play-offs.
The Miami Heat are bit of a surprise here to be sitting second, but their record of 29-12 record shows they deserve to be there. Unlike many of the top sides, their scoring is spread nicely with Butler the top with 20.3, with another 6 averaging double figures. They have Adebayo dominating on the boards, have good spread of shooters and a key player in Butler who can deliver down the stretch in close games. Another team with a trade to make I think, with talk of DeRozan from the Spurs which would be interesting. Can they keep this up? This is the big question, but they are a legitimate contender in the East.
Boston have produced some big performances this year, and are clearly one of the contenders, but you have to wonder if the lack of a centre is starting to hurt them. Kanter and Theis are unlikely to cut it against the rest of the bigs in the East, and unless they go small ball but I’m not sure that will cut it against the guys like Giannis, Adebayo, Embiid etc.
The Pacers and the Raptors round out the top 6, and the genuine contenders in the East. The Pacers has a slow start but have hit form of late, with Sabonis, Brogdon and T.J .Warren leading this team nicely having won 5 of the their last 6, whilst the Raptors have also surprised with many expecting them to blow it all up and start again but instead they have continued on with their form from last week, basically on the back of young guys stepping up (Siakam & VanVleet) and the experience still delivering (Lowry, Ibaka & Gasol). Can they go back to back Eastern champions? If they can get there, they have the height and experience to trouble the Bucks but do they have the depth?
The Play-off hopefuls:
Really, there are only two options here, with the Magic and the Nets seemingly being the only realistic options to make it. The Pistons, Bulls and Hornets are sitting 3 games back, but they are all pretty average and I can’t see them making these up on the Nets with the Kyrie now back.
Really, the remainder of the teams will soon to get into that period where it becomes time to tank. Detroit are possibly looking at trading out Drummond, which depending on what they get back could see their play-off hopes dive (though they are pretty much sunk anyway). The Bulls are entertaining and Zach Lavine gives us decent highlights but not much else. Probably the big shock is how bad the Hawks have been, considering they have some good talent on that list. With Collins and Trae Young they have two quality young blokes, so maybe they figure if the tank, get another quality young bloke in you have a core to push in the coming years?
The ‘Views’ tips for the East
Eastern Finals – Bucks V Miami
Eastern Champions – Milwaukee Bucks