Contenders and Pretenders in the Eastern Conference: Are the Miami Heat for real?

With their recent surge in the standings, the Miami Heat look like they are still contenders.

Miami Heat v New Orleans Pelicans
Miami Heat v New Orleans Pelicans / Sean Gardner/GettyImages
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Statistically, the Western Conference is stronger than the East this season. Considering that four of the top six best team records belong to West squads could be the easiest way to prove this. However, each season there are always contenders and even some pretenders.

The loaded West has some new up-and-coming teams at the top of the conference standings. The Minnesota Timberwolves and OKC Thunder own the top two records out of the West, with the reigning champion Denver Nuggets right behind them.

Based on the Timberwolves and Thunder's sudden success this year, nobody may know for sure whether those two teams are contenders or pretenders. They both have the potential to surprise a lot of people, regardless of their experience. However, the Eastern Conference could be a little easier to decipher between the contenders and pretenders. Let’s dive into the teams that fall into each category within the Miami Heat’s conference.

Pretender: Philadelphia 76ers

Joel Embiid’s health with the Philadelphia 76ers has been an issue his whole career. With the importance and effect Embiid brings to his team, having him healthy for a playoff run is a non-factor in regards to them being a contender. The problem is that he just hasn’t been.

Even in years past where Embiid was “available”, oftentimes he was banged up and playing hurt. He is currently out indefinitely with yet another major injury. It’s just tough for this year’s 76ers team to build any sort of cohesion with the reigning league MVP being in and out of lineups.

It also makes it harder knowing their roster has gone through plenty of shake ups in their Embiid era. Ben Simmons and James Harden are two star names over the seasons that have both run their way out of town. Most importantly, Philadelphia just doesn’t have a good playoff reputation. They have never made it out of the East semi’s once with Embiid as their main guy. Sadly, it looks like that may not change anytime soon.