Over last few weeks the NBA’s Eastern Conference seems to have taken the decision to mirror the sense of pure chaos emanating from Trump’s White House. Nobody seems to have a clue what is going on. Cleveland is loosing, the Sixers are winning and the Washington Wizards are making a mad push for the second seed. All in all the Eastern playoff picture is looking about as coherent as a Sean Spicer press conference.
Let’s dive in.
The first thing to get out of the way is that despite Cleveland’s recent dismal run and LeBron James’ very public pouting and posturing, the Cavs are going to be just fine. Sure there are issues with the makeup of the roster and yes they do need more playmaking of the bench, but they are still by far the best team in the East and they will in all likelihood be back in The Finals come June.
Toronto has been on a equally horrific run which has dragged them into a 4-way scrap to see who get’s to be Cleveland’s maid of honour in the East. At one point Toronto looked to be the clear number two but now The Raptors, Celtics, Wizards and Hawks are separated by just 2 games. As a team that has struggled in the playoffs recently seeding is crucial for this Raptors squad so they can avoid meeting the Cavs earlier than necessary.
The Wizards have been the surprise team of 2017 despite being located nearest to the pure lunacy in D.C. Having started the season slowly at 6-11 through November the Wizards have picked it up recently going 8-2 in their last 10 and an impressive 14-1 at home since the start of December. In John Wall and Bradley Beal, Washington has genuine star quality in the back court. When Wall is dialled in his combination of size speed and vision make him one of the truly elite PGs in the league. That is the question mark though, when he is dialled in, too often he lets games pass him by as shown by last season’s tepid performances. For now the Wizards and John Wall are on the up, who knows, maybe the squad are all secretly massive Trump supporters and have been galvanised by his terrifying ascent to power. At this point it’d be hard to be surprised by anything.
Sliding in the other direction are the Milwaukee Bucks. Around Christmas the Bucks were hovering around .500 and looking like a team poised to surge upwards in the East. However a 2-8 record in their last 10 have dropped the young Bucks back down to the 9th seed. Their line up at the moment is gloriously mad and so fun to watch with basically everyone on the floor over 6’ 9” and possessing crazy length and athleticism. It looks so weird but for a couple of months it was really working, Coach Jason Kidd and his players need to rediscover that formula if they are to achieve what their talent suggests they could.
Now for two teams who seem to be tearing themselves apart from the inside, the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks. No team has embraced drama has wholeheartedly as the Knicks this year; from declaring themselves a super team at the start of the year, to being amazingly committed to playing absolutely defence , to now actively shopping their best player in Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks have been running a masters degree in how to be a absolute hot mess of a basketball team all year.
The Bulls on the other hand are waging an internal PR war between veterans Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade and the team’s rookies. Wade and Butler have questioned the young player’s attitude and work ethic in a startling attack which makes little sense. This has in turn led to the famously popular and all round great team mate Rajon Rondo questioning Wade and Butler’s leadership. The Bulls currently have the 8 seed in the east but they are a mess on and off the court and it would be a surprise if they are still there in May.
Finally it would be cruel to talk about the East without mentioning the Philadelphia 76ers who have been both fun and successful over the past couple of weeks. Joel Embiid has emerged as a superstar on the floor and a hilarious personality off it. Giving himself the nickname ‘The Process’ and asking out Rhianna on twitter are just a few examples of what make him one of the most engaging personalities in the league. His talk of playoffs is a pipe dream for Philly this season, but watch out for these Sixers in the coming years.