Who Will Win the East?


Earlier this year it looked as if the East were a one team league as the Celtics were above and beyond the rest of the conference. But at the end of January the Pistons began a hot streak and won 20 of 25 games to put themselves in the picture. After these two teams, only three other teams are even mention worthy: the emerging Magic, the LeBron-led Cavaliers, and the internationally flavored Raps. If I were forced in taking a sleeper, I could see Orlando upsetting the Pistons. But I can’t see them beating both Detroit and Boston on the road to get to the Finals. In the end, the East boils down to its top two teams.

I’m sure there have been dozens of articles written about the futility of the NBA’s right coast, and rightfully so. Had Kevin McHale not made Boston a powerhouse, the East would have been as it was the previous few seasons: Detroit peering back at a handful of teams. Looking at the standings, it’s hard not to think that a half dozen Western teams could easily get to the Finals if they swapped conferences. Fortunately I don’t see this disparity lasting too long.

Boston still looks to be the league’s best team, and will likely be of one the league’s best for another year or two. Orlando and Toronto improved this year, and at least one of them should be among the elite eastern teams in a season or two. Next year Miami is likely to have 3 star players (Wade, Marion, and their lottery pick), and nothing motivates Pat Riley more than a whiff of success. With a host of young talent, Chicago might be a good coach and a trade away from rebounding strongly in 2009. And of course Detroit still has their core locked up for at least another year.

If Boston wins a championship and stays dominant for the next few years, that alone might help the East recover. Part of the reason the West is superior is the level of competition is higher. It doesn’t make much sense to wallow in mediocrity, because the bar is set so high. Over the last few years, a mediocre Eastern team could open the season with the hopes of going deep into the playoffs. If Boston, Detroit, and maybe Orlando form a stout triumvirate while teams like Toronto and Cleveland are consistently in the playoffs, the rest of the conference will have to step up their efforts if they wish to be competitive.

Unfortunately this won’t make the Eastern half of the playoffs more exciting this year. The only reasons to watch the East will be the eventual Boston/Detroit (or Orlando) showdown and LeBron James late game theatrics. Hopefully next year will be a different story.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of KnickerBlogger.net. His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

15 thoughts to “Who Will Win the East?”

  1. As much as I hate Boston, I chose them because they have a team of guys I just can’t dislike. There good players and people. The Red Sox on the other hand…

  2. No mention of the Wiz at all???? When All-Stars Caron and Gilbert are healthy, they at least deserve a mention; they’re currently a better team than Toronto, for example. Watch out for the possible (though unlikely) Eastern Conference Finals run if they (finally) get by Cleveland and then have a second round matchup with Boston, from whom they’ve taken 3 of 4 this season…

  3. Yeah, I’m really hoping it comes together for Washington – they’ve been good without Arenas and if it all comes together I think they’ll definitely beat Cleveland. That series and a series between them and Boston will both be great.

  4. I’m dubious of Washington. I don’t see Gilbert and Caron improving that 21st ranked defense, at least enough to make them dangerous to Boston or Detroit. To me they’ve always seemed to be terribly lacking on the defensive end. This season they are ranked 12th on offense and 21st on defense. Last year it was 3/28 and the year before 6/22. If you’re going to succeed with a below average defense, you need a great offense. I’m not sure if Washington can do that either.

    It’d be a nice story, but I just don’t see it.

  5. The showdown between Motown and the Celtics is going to be epic, and over 7 games I actually like Detroit, mainly due to their depth. The Pistons “Zoo Crew,” Amir Johnson, Jason Maxille, Jarvis Hayes, Rodney Stuckey and Aaron Affalo recently closed out and won a game against a Toronto team fighting for playoff seeding. (if it were somehow possible to trade the Knick’s entire roster for the Zoo Crew straight up, it would probably be one of the best things to happen to the franchise). Detroit’s veteran core is still unbelievably solid, and with a bunch of young, high energy, defensive-minded guys coming off of the bench, I think they could be nasty.

    …or maybe Boston will win ‘cause Boston’s also kinda awesome. The series is something to look forward to either way.

  6. I’m not sure about Detrot. The past few years they haven’t been able to just “switch it on” when the playoffs start. I love the bench as much as Sam, but the core is getting older and older and outside of point guard, there is no position match-up where they are better than Boston.

  7. I know Detroit looks good on paper, but after the last few years of playoff flops, plus the Flip Saunders resume, they have a lot to prove. Beating Orlando would be a start.

    Boston on the other hand… looking at the roster, I can’t see how they’ve been this dominant. Great team, title contender, sure… odds-on favorite? hmmm…

    And yet here they are. They’ve been great all year. Have to say they’re solid favorites to go all the way.

    Out West? If Bynum comes back healthy — LA. If not — tough call. But I’ll go with Utah, to start an argument.

  8. And after last season we can’t leave out Lebron and the Cavs – sure he coasts during the season but his legacy drives him in the playoffs.

  9. True, Detroit has folded down the stretch the past couple of years. But a lot of Detroit’s playoff burnouts had to do with fatigue as a result of the starters playing extended minutes throughout the season…which they haven’t been doing this year because of the bench. So, I think you have to see Detroit as being in a fairly different position from the years where they choked. The veterans are indeed older, but I wouldn’t say over the hill, and by the same token, they’ve played a TON of games together and mesh really, really well.

    As for the Cavs, clearly you can never completely discount them because of LBJ. But the rest of them aren’t that good at all. They’ll make it a series, but I doubt they can take Boston or Detroit.

  10. Detroit hasn’t just folded the last two years; they have DIED in the playoffs.

    I always root for Detroit, but they have looked so bad in the Flip Saunders era when it has counted. They look bored, old, slow. Almost as if they have money on the other team. And with Saunders constantly pulling at his tie and cracking his neck, it’s just unbearable.

    Did you see LeBron score all those points against them in the final game last year? He had just scored 23 points in a row (or so) and they didn’t even get near him on the last play. LeBron is good, but that was a TOTAL failure to play any reasonable defense. They lost me there.

    I hope the young guys can bring it, but the starters lost me beginning with Sheed’s idiotic non-defense of Robert Horry on the last play in the Spurs Final.

  11. As a DC resident, I have seen alot of Wizards games and can (hopefully) say they have shown better defense this year. The past two playoff exits have made them buy into Eddie Jordan’s schemes on defense and that may be enough to disrupt a lame Cavs team (since Lebron really is their #1,2 and 3 option even with the trade). There’s a new level of determination and chippiness we’ve seen in spurts (games against the Celtics, Pistons) and if they can just turn that on, they’ll make it to the second round.

    After that, I’m afraid Ernie Grunfeld’s team is still too reliant on jumpshots and they’ll likely lose in the 2nd round.

    By the way, I am a big Grunfeld fan. He let go of the no-talent Jared Jeffries (Hello isiah!) and didn’t overspend to keep Jarvis Hayes. We have scrubs like Roger Mason Jr. contributing, as well as youngsters that are just as promising as my beloved Knicks in Nick Young, Dom Aguire and Andray Blatche…smart roster management.

  12. For whatever reason, coaches are extremely important in the NBA post season. I can hardly think of a championship team that didn’t have a legitimate great coach. Or if they weren’t considered great at the time, would be viewed as great thereafter.

    Which is one reason I have little faith in Flip Saunders.

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