NBA Eastern Conference temperature test: Heat, the 76ers look like candidates; Bulls, Cavs can end drought

It’s never too early to look back at the Eastern Conference playoffs picture. At least that’s the motto that applies here. Almost a month into the 2021-22 season, some teams have begun to separate themselves, while others are still trying to find a foothold. The play-in tournament is clearly expanding the range of potential playoff entrants, and at the start of this season, no one was beyond it.

With that being said, it seems unlikely Detroit Pistons or Orlando Magic will be in the playoffs this season, as both are extremely young teams and are at the lowest tier on the road to contention. Those are the only two teams in the East with a win rate of less than 0.300 at this stage of the season. While appearing in the playoffs might be a pipe dream for those two teams, it’s still a realistic goal for the other 13 teams in the conference.

Below, you’ll see those 13 teams split into three categories – legitimate contenders, threats and playoff hopefuls – along with a brief explanation of why each team has been placed in the spot. its. Competitors can envision getting out of the East and running to the Finals, while threats may pose problems for the contenders, but probably won’t beat any of them. in a full seven-game series if both teams are at full strength. Those with playoff hopes will enter the finals for a post-season spot, and they might even beat one, but they’ll be lucky to make it through the first round. With that said, here’s a look at where we see each team fit at this point in the season.

Legitimate candidate

Milwaukee Bucks: Any true list of contenders in the East must start with the defending champion Bucks. The Bucks have the same roster they won the title with last season, which means they have depth and experience. They are also arguably the best player in the league in Giannis Antetokounmpo. They’ve had a somewhat slow start to this season due to injury issues, but as long as they’re fit to playoff time, they’ll be extremely difficult to topple.

brooklyn network: Like Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant at the top of the discussion about “the best player in the world” and as long as the Nets have him – and the former NBA MVP James Harden – they will join the conversation of the opponents. Durant currently leads the league in scoring with 29.6 points per game, and he looks almost unstoppable on attack. Plus, if the Nets finally get Kyrie Irving back, or trade him for a solid return, the more dangerous they will become. Their overall depth can be cause for concern, but they have the ultimate high-profile talent to compete with, with or without Irving.

Miami Heat: The Heat conducted the Finals two seasons ago, and after solidifying their roster for the season, no one should be shocked to see them back there again. Kyle Lowry seems like an ideal compliment to Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, and in Tyler Herro The Heat has the Favorite Friday Man of the Year award. Overall, they’re a team with depth, talent and well-trained, and as such, they’ve come up with a real problem for the rest of the East.

Philadelphia 76ers: After finishing at their best last season, the Sixers got off to an 8-2 start this season before injuries and COVID issues took their toll and they lost four straight games. . Joel Embiid. When he’s on the floor, the Sixers look like a real threat, and even though he’s missed many past games, Philadelphia still has the championship of the league. Most rated offense. They seem to be deeper than before and that’s not there Ben Simmons. If he trades at some point during the season, they can become deeper and more dangerous.


Chicago Bulls: The Bulls are a much improved team thanks to the addition of in-season players like DeMar DeRozan, Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso. With Zach LaVine, Nikola Vucevic and DeRozan, Chicago now have three legitimate attacking options and several players playing solid roles. They may lack the top talent to win the title, but at least their four-year playoff drought will be over.

New York Knicks: The Knicks solved a big problem during the season by adding some auxiliary perimeter points around Julius Randle. In Kemba Walker, Evan Fournier, Derrick Rose and Alec Burks The Knicks currently have several players capable of crafting their own attack from the outer ring. They’ve had a slow start in defense this season, but if they figure things out at that end (they had the fourth-best defense of the league last season), they’ll face a tough one. .

Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks got off to a slow start this season, but they did the same last year before turning the tide and eventually making it to the Eastern Conference finals. The roster is largely the same as the one it was in last season, so similar success would be possible.

Washington Wizards: The Wizards have been one of the biggest surprises of the season so far. Only time will tell if they can continue their hot start (9-3 to 12 games), but they certainly won’t get any worse after that. Russell Westbrook trade. Behind Bradley Beal, Washington’s next four top scorers for the season are all new additions: Montrezl Harrell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

Hoping for the playoff

Charlotte Hornets: Most of the teams in this section are a year or two away from being truly competitive, and that seems to be the case with Hornet. In LaMelo Ball and Mile Bridge they have some great young backgrounds, and while they may not be ready to really compete for a title this season, their 2016 playoff drought may be over.

Toronto Raptors: The Raptors are a tough team, they’re well trained and they’re defensively tight. In other words, they’re one of those teams that no team really wants to face in a seven-match series, even if they lack the top talent to really compete this season.

Boston Celtics: The Celtics are like a team in need of change. They have some solid individual pieces, but the cohesion isn’t there. It’s never a good sign when players are calling their teammates Only a few weeks until a season. They are good enough to make it to the knockout stages as they have built up at the moment, but couldn’t expect more from them.

Cleveland Cavaliers: Cleveland hasn’t made it to the knockouts since LeBron James left for LA in 2018, but that record could end this season thanks to a promising young Cavs roster led by Darius Garland, Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen. Garland and Mobley both have All-Star potential, and the team has given their all under JB Bickerstaff, especially in defense (they currently have the 5th best defense in the league). The return of the NBA Finals may be a few years away, but you have to start somewhere.

Indiana Pacers: It’s hard to get too excited about the Pacers because the team is largely the same as it has been for the past few years – good enough to compete for a playoff spot and possibly secure one, but that’s about it.

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