Toronto Raptors: In my opinion, the Raptors are the most well rounded team in the East. Boasting an All-Star backcourt in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, a solid center in Jonas Valanciunas, and a strong supporting cast coming off the bench, this team has it all. Sitting at 41-19, the Raptors have the second best record in the East and are chomping at Cleveland’s number one spot. I definitely see Toronto in the postseason conversation, how far they will go is a toss up; if Lowry and DeRozan continue their dominance, I see them keeping their two seed in the East and really pushing the Cavs.
Boston Celtics: The Celts have come a long way since their poor start to this eventful season. With a post All-Star momentum spurt, the Big Green are now third in the Eastern Conference and have won 13 straight at home. Isaiah Thomas has been on fire, leading his team with career highs in multiple categories (PTS, ASTS, REBS); and has had three 25+ point games in the month of March alone. I see the Celtics making a legitimate push into the playoffs under head coach Brad Stevens, but am not sure they will be able to hold onto their three seed in the East.
New York Knicks: Oh how hard it must be to be a Knicks fan. After a promising start to the season, the Knicks have simply fallen apart over the last month and a half. After injuries began mounting up, Porzingis and Anthony, the losses began pouring in at an astonishing rate. Fortunately, the Knicks have been playing hard each night and have made games at the very least watchable; that being said, this has to sting. The Knicks won’t make the playoffs as many hoped they would this season, but with Porzingis’ development and the improving form of the team, this season has not been a loss.
Milwaukee Bucks: Milwaukee has been one of the more disappointing teams this year, after a surprising playoff run in the 2014-’15 season. Sitting at 26-36, the Bucks have actually made progress in their last ten games, going 6-4 in that stretch, but are still a ways a way from any playoff action. At this point in the season, I cannot definitely say the Bucks are out of the postseason conversation, but unless they start making up ground soon, Milwaukee may be watching playoff ball on TV come April.
Indiana Pacers: The Pacers have really built off of a rocky start to the year, and are now looking to get back into the playoffs on the backs of some great play from All-Star Paul George, rookie Myles Turner, and scoring vet Monta Ellis. At 33-30, the pacers are sitting on the seven seed in the East, a spot I see them holding onto in the future especially if their stars continue their consistent play and the bench stays relatively strong. I am actually hoping that the Pacers remain the seventh seed in the East, as a first round Raptors-Pacers playoff series would be amazing.
Miami Heat: The Heat have stayed strong the entire season, and are now finally seeing the rewards of this strength. Sitting on a 36-26 record, the Heat are playing phenomenal basketball and are showing no signs of slowing down, on a current four game win streak. Dwayne Wade has stayed consistent as a leader on this team his entire career, and now that his running mate and the team’s second best player in Chris Bosh is out indefinitely, Wade is stepping up. With help from youngsters off the bench and angry big man Hassan Whiteside
Charlotte Hornets: Buzz City is definitely Buzzing right now, as their Hornets have swarmed the standings behind the stellar play of the vastly improved Kemba Walker. Walker is averaging a career high 21 points, and has really stepped up in the absence of the forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and a recently returned Al Jefferson, pushing his team to the six seed in the hectic East. I think that if Walker and Batum continue their consistent play, the Hornets will make for an entertaining team in the postseason.
Washington Wizards: The Wizards are having a very rough year…After starting the season with some promising wins, the Wizards have tumbled and stumbled to a lackluster 30-32 record, on the outside looking into the playoff picture. With a talented young Roster filled with scorers and defenders, its very unfortunate to see the Wizards like this, but I have hope. If the Bulls slide, and I’m not saying they will, and the Pistons continue their disastrous play, I see Washington sneaking into the playoffs as an unlikely eight seed.
Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks have definitely slipped since last years Cinderella story season, but are still looking solid. At 34-28, the Hawks are right behind Miami, but I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the Hawks begin to slump a bit. With he Hornets on their heels and a team without a go to scorer, I can’t help but imagine ATL slipping to the sixth seed.
Brooklyn Nets: Brooklyn has been terrible the entire season, and they aren’t getting any better. After winning a mediocre 38 games last season, the 18-45 Nets would be lucky to reach 30 wins. Brook Lopez is playing hard, averaging 20 points and eight boards, but the Nets weak supporting cast hasn’t been able to help in any major way all year. Hopefully missing this years postseason will help the Net’s management realize they are in rebuild mode.
Orlando Magic: I had high hopes for the Magic this season, unfortunately, they have disappointed. Though Orlando has a better record than last years campaign sitting at 27-34, I expected a few more wins at this point at the start of the season. With so much young talent, Vucevic and Oladipo namely, you would think the Magic could outlast and outplay many of their fellow Eastern Conference teams. Sadly they have not been able to, and this is reflected in their record and spot in the standings. Don’t count the Magic out just yet, but don’t bet on them either.
Philadelphia 76ers: The Sixers are doing great, if your a fan of tanking for draft picks. With a grand total of eight wins on the season, the Sixers are not even remotely respectable; playing for the future of the franchise, I understand the direction of Philadelphia, but how much losing can a young team like this take. Expect Philly to be watching the postseason at home this year.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Despite a post All-Star break slide, the Cavs are still the best team in the East, and are going to try to put this fact on full display in this home stretch of the season. LeBron and Kyrie are playing great together, and the bench has helped the Cavs on their way to a 44-17 record. I see the Cavaliers remaining numero uno in the East, but until the entire team comes together under new coach Lue, I’m not sure how far they will go.
Chicago Bulls: The Bulls have unfortunately squandered a solid start to the season due to some late game runs and the injury to star guard Jimmy Butler. Now with a 31-30 record, the Bulls are back in the postseason talk with a tenuous position. Sharing the same amount of wins with Detroit, unless Chi-town can create some separation, its possible the Bulls miss the playoffs.
Detroit Pistons: The Pistons are in a very similar spot as the Bulls; both teams came into the season hot, and both have rapidly cooled down. The Pistons are now 31-31, and are right outside of the playoff picture as the ninth best team in the East. But if Motor City can put together a few win streaks and work on their chemistry, I don’t see why they cant finally get back into the NBA postseason.