Records and standings are through December 30.
1. Boston Celtics (28-5): Who doesn’t love the holidays? Apparently, the Celtics don’t. They lost three of their last four games since Christmas, losing to the Lakers, Warriors and a Roy-less Blazers team. Their next three games will be against New York, Washington and Charlotte, anything is possible.
2. Cleveland Cavaliers (28-5): My thoughts? I think the Cavs are one Joe Smith away from taking the number one spot in the East.
3. Orlando Magic (24-7): Is Jameer Nelson overachieving, or finally showing what he’s worth? Flight Howard is so much of a beast, it’s a beauty to watch him play, and Rashard Lewis is quietly putting up the numbers once again. Fun team to watch, and watch out if Hedo finally breaks out of his season-long shooting slump.
4. Atlanta Hawks (21-10): The young Hawks have one thing one their mind: 50 wins. Since pushing the Celtics to seven games last spring, they believe they can beat anybody. And they might be right. Wait, they’ve got another thing on their mind: Joe Johnson is an all-star. Coaches, do your work.
5. Detroit Pistons (18-11): The Pistons have now won four in a row, which was needed to prove to their loyal fanbase that the AI can help this team, but for how long? Coach Curry even admits that playing with two, instead of three guards, works out better for them defensively. Their best line-up might be Stuckey, Hamilton, Prince, Johnson / Maxiell / McDyess, and Rasheed Wallace. I know, call me mr. Obvious, but AI coming off the bench? Can’t see it happening.
6. Miami Heat (17-13): Who is Miami’s most important player besides Dwyane Wade this season? If you’re answer isn’t Udonis Haslem, you’re wrong. Of course Wade is the biggest reason that they are now sixth in the East, but without Haslem, they wouldn’t even be in the top eight.
7. New Jersey (15-16): I know, I don’t believe it either. If the Nets played 82 games on the road, they would be amongst the East elite. I might be reaching here, but take a look at these numbers: they are 10-4 on the road, but only 5-12 at home. And if you haven’t already read this somewhere: this is a record.The Nets are the only team in the history of the NBA to be 5 games over .500 on the road, and 5 games under .500 at home. Certainly won’t help attendance, which was already dreadful.
8. Milwaukee Bucks (15-17): On paper, the Bucks have a very good roster, but their record doesn’t show for it (yet). But if this will be a playoff season, their record doesn’t matter anymore, and they could be a tough team to face in the first round.
9. Chicago Bulls (14-17): An implosion waiting to happen. Derrick Rose is playing at such a high level, it’s almost unavoidable for a rookie to go through some rough times too. The question is: who will carry this once proud franchise when that happens? Luol Deng? Maybe when he’s healthy. Ben Gordon? Dude’s still waiting for that big contract, and it might not be in Chicago. Tyrus Thomas is inconsistent, Noah is not doing enough, Larry Hughes is (surprise!) unhappy with his role coming off the bench, and not a single big man on this roster can post up and score if his name isn’t Drew Gooden, so they need to do something before the trading deadline. Rumors of bringing Brad Miller back might not be a bad idea.
10. Philadelphia 76’ers (12-18): Already one of the most disappointing teams of this season, just behind the Raptors and Clippers, and then the Sixers lost Elton Brand. Since they played really well without Brand last season, let’s see what they can do. Firing Maurice Cheeks really helped, didn’t it?
11. New York Knicks (12-18): Hey, they could be worse. They’re actually fun to watch, so that’s at least one thing Mike D’Antoni has accomplished. Nate Robison is still making a lot of boneheaded plays, no matter how many points he puts up, and he’s not alone. They can’t defend anyone, but The only player who really impressed me so far is Chris Duhon. He’s carrying that team so far, doing so without a back-up.
12. Toronto Raptors (12-19): There’s hardly any help from the bench, Jermaine O’Neal can play great in one game, completely disappear in the other, the same thing goes for Bargs, and it still feels like Chris Bosh is still all alone in Canada whenever I see the Raptors play. It wouldn’t surprise me if there are some roster moves being made come February.
13. Charlotte Bobcats (11-21): I really don’t know what to think of this team. Haven’t seen them play yet, but at least Boris Diaw is performing very well. Same goes for Gerald Wallace, when healthy. Will the both of them still be here in two months?
14. Indiana Pacers (10-21): No one expected the Pacers to win much this season, as they try to assemble a decent team around young star Danny Granger. By the way: will Jamaal Tinsley ever get traded? Place your bets now!
15. Washington Wizards (6-21): Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler are once again carrying the load, with both of them putting up All-Star numbers. Will Arenas ever get back? And when will Eddie Jordan be back into the League? Dude got screwed.
(Tomorrow we'll take a look at the the Western Conference)