Who is the best team in the East not named the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers? Does it even matter? (No.) Won’t the Heat and Pacers just end up playing each other in the Eastern Conference Finals? (Yes… Most likely). Could the third best team end up finishing below .500? (Let’s just stop asking questions before this gets depressing). In a landscape no longer featuring relevant Bulls or Celtics teams, the Heat only have one real challenger to the throne in the East: the Pacers. To make matters worse, no team has stepped up to the plate either as a worthy challenger. Most experts saw the Nets as a legitimate title contender this year with the arrival of KG and Paul Pierce. Or they saw the return of Derrick Rose as the return of the Bulls. Perhaps the last possible contender in the East coming into the year was the Knicks, fresh off a 54 win campaign. But quite a lot can happen in just a few months. Derrick Rose tears his meniscus, and suddenly we can forget about the Bulls. Tyson Chandler fractures his fibula, general J.R. Smith-ery takes place at an unimaginably high rate, and the Knicks stop raining 3’s every night, and suddenly we can forget about the Knicks. And in Brooklyn, Deron Williams struggles with ankle injuries, KG falls off a cliff, and Jason Kidd tries his best to coach, and suddenly we can forget about Brooklyn too–I think. Yet, they have shown brief signs of life in recent weeks. But to keep things simple, the Bulls, Knicks, Nets, and Celtics (who previously had been one of the Heat’s rivals, before entering tank mode) are irrelevant in the East. That leaves us with a hodgepodge of teams in the East that, many of whom came into the season in tank-mode. Teams like the Bucks, Sixers, Magic, and Bobcats (wait, they’d actually be the eight seed if the playoffs started today…), coupled with teams trying not to be in tank-mode, but suck enough to still be in tank-mode (see: Cavs and Pistons) are afterthoughts this year. So who is even left in the East? That leaves with three teams: the Raptors, Hawks, and Wizards.
The Suspects Continue reading