NBA Roundtable

Eastern Landscape — Middle of the Pack Teams

In General NBA on September 24, 2009 at 6:19 am

I made this comment over at Raptors Republic a short while ago

The one thing that makes me quite nervous about the Raptors going .500 or slightly over is the number of other teams who have similar hopes.

There’s about five teams generally agreed upon as having a shot at the #7 and #8 seed — Phily, Miami, Toronto, Detroit, Charlotte — and even if you beyond that, to Indy, Milwaukee and NY, you have three teams that if they’re healthy (Dunleavy, Redd + Bogut, Gallinari) that are capable of winning 35+ games. That’s 14 teams …

There’s going to be no easy games in the East next year.

There’s no terrible teams that everyone can just beat up on — like the Kings, Thunder, Wolves, Grizzlies, and Warriors in the Western Conference last year — it’s going to be a relatively even landscape in the middle of the Eastern Conference and teams are going to eat into each other’s win totals.

I think there’s a fair chance that the Raptors finish slightly below .500 (36-40 wins). The landscape is not favourable, not at all.

I think this is true for all the teams in the East between #7-#14. Even the fifteenth team, the New Jersey Nets, I think they’re better than they’re been given credit for too … and while they’re the worst in the East, they’re still not as bad as several of the very poor teams in the West were last season.

Now, it’s damn near impossible that they’ll all play like this … someone is bound to have injuries which given the parity on display will surely devastate their seasons … and there’s already three teams with question marks over them injury wise although each contend their boys are healthy at the moment … so some easy games will be created during the season, but there’s still going to be an awful lot of tough games.

The East will have three powerhouses that can run any of the other teams over at will. Then three other teams which are at a slight advantage over the trailing pack. From there we have somewhere between 6-8 teams who’ll be 50-50 propositions when going against one another. Thus leaving 1-3 teams who’ll put up a decent fight and have a shot at beating the teams ahead of them, but will be at a disadvantage each time.

This is a tough landscape for any team harbouring hopes of finishing .500. All these squads could easily eat into each other’s win totals, due to the competitiveness and the parity that exists, and leave nearly all, or even all of, these teams could finish below .500 next year.

  1. Dave,

    At this point, I agree 100% with this assessment of the EC. Those Raptors fans, for example, that are thinking this is going to be a straight-up 45 [or more] win season are living in lala land.

    The Nets, as you’ve suggested are projected to be one of the bottom 2-3 teams in the East, and yet … if you take a look at the talent on their roster with an unbiased eye what you see is a squad that could very easily win enough games this season, under the direction of Rod Thorn, Kiki Vandeweghe and Lawrence Frank, to finish ahead of the Raptors in the standings.

    Whichever teams are fortunate enough to escape the injury bug might just be the ones that qualify for the playoffs.

  2. This has been a reoccurring theme in the East for a while now. It is much tougher for middle of the pack 4-10 to get wins than it is for the same teams in the West.
    The better Western clubs pick up about 6 extra wins per season because their bad teams are really bad.

  3. Completely agree. The East is gonna be a mess. I wouldn’t even put Atlanta, Chicago, and Washington clearly ahead of the teams you’ve got at 7-14. After the top 3, it’s going to be crazy. If Garnett’s not back to 100%, change that to after the top 2.

  4. Hey Vittorio,

    How far do you see the Celtics falling should KG not be himself next year?

    Even if KG were to retire today … I have the Celtics winning at least 54 games next season. They wouldn’t be a contender anymore but they’d still be my pick for the third best team in the East.

    The Celtics won 62 games last year with KG missing a third of the season. They were 44-13 (77% which is a 63 win season) with KG in the lineup, and 18-7 (72% which is a 59 win season) with him out of action. Then won a playoff series against a good Chicago team, and took Orlando (East Champ) to seven games.

    The Celtics have an incredible amount of quality on their roster. To be able to lose a player of KG’s ability, and still be as good as they were speaks volumes about the amount of talent they have in their squad outside of KG. I think they have three all-stars in Pierce, Rondo and Ray plus arguably a top 10 center in Perkins. Plus Sheed, BBD, House and Daniels who are all valuable role players.

    If KG were to play, and not be himself, let’s say a 75-80% version of KG … I think Boston has a good shot at winning 60 games.


    I think Atlanta and Washington are comfortably ahead for the time being. I think both squads are capable of winning in the high 40s to low 50s next year.

    Chicago is more debatable, I don’t think they’re as good as the other two, but I’d place them ahead of the trailing pack. I think the Bulls should be looking for a 45+ win season. Less than that, I think they’ll have under-achieved.

    The thing about Chicago is that they have seven good players — Derrick Rose, Kirk Hinrich, John Salmons, Luol Deng, Ty Thomas, Joakim Noah and Brad Miller — none of the other teams below them in the East can match that sort of depth in good quality players.

    A couple of them have brighter stars (Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh), but I think the Bulls superior depth across their main rotation players keeps them ahead of the pack.

  5. Dave,

    The Bulls are a very interesting team to look at in-depth, compared with the Raptors.

    From last year’s squad that lost to Boston they’ve lost Ben Gordon.

    However, they basically retained everyone else AND are now adding:

    Luol Deng, James Johnson, Taj Gibson and Jannero Pargo

    in place of the scrubs they had on the end of their bench in that 7 epic 7-games series.

    * Derrick Rose is going into his 2nd year in the NBA.

    Raptors fan need to READ that sentence very slowly so thy understand the full implications of what those 11 words mean.

    Derrick Rose was not the No. 9 [overall] Selection in the 2009 NBA Draft, following his freshman season at a high calibre NCAA D1 program, during which he was an effective role player on his squad that failed to make a dent in the post-season March Madness tournament … Derrick Rose was the No. 1 [overall] Selection in the 2008 NBA Draft, following his freshman season at a high calibre NCAA D1 program, during which he led his team to the Championship game.

    * Instead of a guard-forward rotation that includes:

    STARTERS: PG/Rose [6-3], OG-PG/Hinrich [6-5] & SF/Salmons [6-6]
    KEY SUBS: Gordon [6-3]

    Chicago now gets to field a considerably bigger group that might look like this:

    STARTERS: PG/Rose [6-3], OG-SF/Salmons [6-6] & SF/Deng [6-8]
    KEY SUBS: PG-OG/Hinrich [6-5] & SF-PF/Johnson [6-8]

    * Instead of a Big Man rotation that includes:

    STARTERS: PF/Thomas & PF-C/Noah
    KEY SUBS: C/Miller

    Chicago now gets to field a considerably more flexible group that might look like this:

    STARTERS: PF/Thomas & PF-C/Noah
    KEY SUBS: SF-PF/Johnson, PF/Gibson & C/Miller

    Q1. Will the Bulls miss Ben Gordon’s scoring ability?
    A1. Perhaps.

    Anybody who thinks that the Raptors have a better assortment of good, young, athletic & talented players on their squad, in comparison with the Bulls is suffering from a MLSE Kool-Aid-induced delusional/hallucination.

    Q2. Can the Rapotrs finish ahead of Chicago this season?
    A2. Yes, they can … but, as Dave has said above … it is by no means a certainty.

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