This season the Playoffs in Eastern Conference will change drastically. The former Eastern Conference champions Miami Heat are struggling mightily while teams like the Knicks have been pleasantly surprising. It is clear that the Eastern Conference this season has been split into three tiers: Locks for a playoff birth, teams in the mix, bottom of the Eastern Conference.
Locks For the Playoffs:
The Philadelphia 76ers and new head coach Doc Rivers look primed to make a deep run in the Eastern Conference. They sit at first seed in the East and are another lock to make the playoffs. Joel Embiid has been having an MVP caliber season leading the Sixers to a 22-12 record.
Ben Simmons has also been a great distributor and defender to complement Embiid. The Sixers are determined to finally make a splash in the Eastern Conference playoffs this season.
The Brooklyn Nets and their deadly trio of James Harden, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving are a lock to make the playoffs. This team is gaining chemistry by the minute and can beat anyone. The Brooklyn Nets are 22-13 and are playing well despite the absence of Kevin Durant.
The Nets are the favorites to win the East, and it will take a perfectly executed playoff series from any team to eliminate this juggernaut.
This season only three teams have stood out in the Eastern Conference. One of those teams is the Milwaukee Bucks led by Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. As of February 28th, the Bucks are 21-13 and are riding a five-game winning streak into a matchup with the Denver Nuggets. The Bucks will most definitely be a team in the playoffs when the time comes. The real question is if the Bucks can ever reach the NBA finals.
Teams in the Mix for the Playoffs:
The Toronto Raptors will most likely make the playoffs when the time comes. They sit at 17-17 right now tied for fourth in the Eastern Conference. Fred VanVleet has been great this year and even though it may seem like a down year, Pascal Siakam is still averaging around 20 per game. The Raptors are always competitive and seem like a playoff team this year.
New York Knicks:
One of the biggest surprises this season has come in thrilling fashion for the state of New York. The Knicks have become relevant again and are sitting at 17-17 tied for fourth in the East. Tom Thibodeau has formed a winning culture and Julius Randle has emerged into an all-star.
Even though Randle’s stats don’t look that different, Knicks fans can tell you how much he’s grown. Randle and rookie Immanuel Quickly have been the main catalysts of offense for New York. The major question is can they keep it up and sneak into the playoffs.
The Celtics have not looked like the team we saw in the playoffs year. Despite the Celtics’ struggles, Jaylen Brown has been the bright spot so far this season. Brown is an all-star and is averaging 25 points per game.
Jayson Tatum is also having a stellar year averaging 25 points per game. The Boston Celtics best two players are contributing nicely and I’m confident they will turn it around and get into the playoffs.
After starting off the season slowly the defending Eastern Conference champions, The Miami Heat seems to be heading right back into the playoffs. Jimmy Butler has remained consistent while Bam Adebayo is continuing his great play from last season.
If everything goes as planned I think we should be expecting the Miami Heat in the playoffs this season.
One other surprising team that could sneak into the playoffs is the Chicago Bulls. Zach LaVine has been playing like a superstar averaging 28.7 points and leading the Bulls to a surprising 15-17 record.
Personally, I don’t feel the Bulls have enough depth on their bench to continue winning games, but they could continue to surprise everyone and reach the Playoffs
The Pacers have disappointed a little this season so far. Despite their lackluster start I still can see the Pacers making the playoffs. Domantas Sabonis is an all-star and is averaging 21.4 points and 11.4 rebounds.
Malcolm Brogdon is also having a spectacular season averaging 21.4 points per game. If the Pacers can win big games down the stretch I could see them beating out teams like the Chicago Bulls.
The Charlotte Hornets have had many bright spots this season. Gordon Hayward has looked to be returning to all-star form averaging 21.5 points per game. One other bright spot for the Hornets organization is the play of LaMelo Ball. Ball has gotten off to an incredible start to his career averaging 15 points, 6 assists, and 6 rebounds per game.
Despite the Charlotte Hornets’ solid play thus far, I can’t envision them making the playoffs in a highly competitive Eastern Conference.
Although the Hawks seem to be a very talented team, being five games under 500% at 14-19 doesn’t give me much hope they can climb out of this hole. The Hawks have the talent to make the playoffs, but I don’t know if they will get there this season.
Even though the Wizards got off to an atrocious start they have seemed to climb back into contention for the playoffs. Bradley Beal has been superb this season and Russell Westbrook is still a walking triple-double. If that tandem can keep up their hot streak of seven wins in the past eight games the Wizards could sneak into the playoffs.
Bottom of the Eastern Conference: Magic, Cavaliers, & Pistons
These three teams are the only ones who seem to be out of the playoff picture. Although there are some bright spots for each of these teams, I personally that these three teams are out of the Playoff picture. Even though anything can happen in the NBA’s long season I don’t see it getting better before it gets worse for the Magic, Cavaliers, and Pistons