With Derrick Rose out for the season with a torn meniscus, and the Eastern Conference being uncomfortably shallow, it begs the question: Is the East already down to just the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers?
If you look at the Eastern Conference standings today, the Toronto Raptors and Charlotte Bobcats would hold the fourth and fifth seeds respectively. Philadelphia, who many expected to tank this season, would nudge into the playoffs too.
I know, the New York Knicks need to get Tyson Chandler/their defense back and the Brooklyn Nets just have to better than what they’ve been so far. But still, given what we’ve seen from those two, and what we have seen from the Heat and Pacers, do we really think they are contenders?
Can the flawed, inconsistent Knicks enter the hyper-competitive realm of near-perfect execution that the Heat and Pacers found themselves in for seven games in last season’s Eastern Conference Finals? Doubt it. At least not consistently. What about the aged-and-aging Nets? Probably not.
All signs point to it being a two-horse race in the East between Miami and Indiana, barring a major injury.
The East is bad, but the Pacers and Heat are very good, sporting two of the NBA’s top four records. They both have a top three Net Rating (the difference between total points scored per 100 possessions and points allowed per 100 possessions) and have super stars to hitch their wagons to.
LeBron James, winner of the last two MVP awards and on track for another, is still getting better. Paul George is becoming an elite player and is a formidable challenge down the road for James. Roy Hibbert is exactly what the Heat don’t want to face, though Miami has yet to play its trump card in Greg Oden.
When it comes down to it, it looks like a repeat of last season’s Eastern Conference finale. It could be worse, huh?