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Ribeye to Eye: The Eastern Conference Playoff Picture

Even the East is juicy this year

Doyle Rader and Travis Huse discuss the NBA’s Eastern Conference, namely the playoff situation (what do you think of this segment’s tentative name?):

DR: Before we get rolling on how we feel the Eastern Conference playoffs will look, I want to address something that I saw last night. Now, I didn’t watch this game, I feel sorry for anyone that did, but I kept an eye on the score throughout the night because, well, I simply didn’t believe what I was seeing. The Detroit Pistons demolished the Cleveland Cavaliers 116 – 77. Now, the 77 points that Cleveland scored are deceiving. On the surface it appears to be a respectable, albeit low, total. It most certainly was not. At the end of three quarters the Pistons were up 100 – 50. Yes, they had a 50 point lead. 50 points! My God! This is the NBA. I know that there is a very vague level of parity that exists in the league, although it often cannot be found on a nightly basis, but what an embarrassment. At least the Bobcats weren’t the worst team in the NBA for one night.

OK, had to get that off my chest. What do you think about the Eastern Conference playoff picture?

TH: I don’t even know how you let the Pistons drop 100 on you. In the middle quarters, the Pistons scored 71. The Cavs only scored 6 more points than that in the entire game.  Oof.

Home court appears to be set, with the Chicago Bulls, Miami Heat, and Indiana Pacers spread enough apart that no one will be able to chase them. Bulls’ losses at Miami and Indiana could give the Heat a slight chance to make the top seed, but that’s a tough thing to imagine. Due to the NBA Playoff format, Boston will nab the 4th seed after winning the Atlantic Division. The remaining four spots are a murkier view.  With Dwight Howard‘s back injury and the myriad of front office issues the Orlando Magic have faced, it’s hard to imagine them competing with the Atlanta Hawks for the right to play Boston.  That being said, they seem to be a more cohesive, team-first organization without Howard.  Teams with a distinct desire to win will remember this when Dwight-a-palooza 2.0 hits next season, and will likely pass.  He’s more meant for the organizations that have a need for PR purposes than ones who need to win.  Every team has a joker, a guy you can’t rely on (Luke Babbitt, Metta World Peace, Stephen Jackson with 29 NBA teams), but it’s not exactly the best formula for winning if that guy also happens to be your superstar.  Recent history has shown that in order to win, your best bet would be with a humble star (Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan, Dirk Nowitzki), instead of the splashy names. Orlando’s not a postseason threat to anyone in limbo, but they might make a last push in order to save face. Knicks can have the 7th seed, whatever.

The 8th spot is something to consider, though.  Could the Philadelphia 76ers really fall out of the picture with only 5 games left in the regular season? Absolutely. The Milwaukee Bucks are only a game and a half behind, and they play the 76ers at home. Since the trade deadline, this Bucks team is almost, sorta, maybe clicking, somehow.  A loss here could spell doom for Philly.

DR: Humble stars? Are you forgetting Kobe Bryant? He may actually be humble off the court but on the court he is quite loquacious with his game.

You’re right about the Magic, though. They are dead in the water and I’m pretty sure that Atlanta has the tie breaker over them so it’s doubtful that they move up in the standings, especially with Howard resting his back injury for the foreseeable future. Some have even speculated that he could sit out the playoffs too. Drama Dwight knows how to play ‘em doesn’t he? The Magic will be a first round exit; the top three teams in the East are too good.

As for Philly, they are taking all their cues from the 2007 Mets. This was a team that I predicted was the scariest team in the East at midseason. I was way off with that one. It is simply mind blowing that they could fall apart this bad. There has been plenty of blame to throw around but it is the whole team that needs to accept responsibility for this showing. Andre Iguodala scored more than 20 points last night for the first time ALL SEASON. This is a well balanced team at virtually every position, and hypothetically, they can rely on scoring from all their pieces but this is crunch time and their balance is dwindling. It is completely conceivable that Milwaukee catches them.

New York is locked into the 7th seed behind the might of Steve “Discount Double Check” Novak. What a flawed and exciting team. I’m pretty sure that they can only exist with one star healthy at a time if they have any hopes of winning. Jeremy Lin led the team at one point, Stoudemire did it early on, now it’s Melo’s turn. It’s the oddest damn thing that they cannot coexist.

TH: Kobe’s an outlier, though, simply because of his self-concept as the post-Jordan Jordan. He’s his biggest critic, and he forces his teammates to play at the best of their ability. Dwight, Carmelo Anthony, and LeBron James have been habitual excuse-makers, and it shows when they’re really tested in the playoffs.

As for the Knicks, I still think they can mesh. Mike Woodson has done a great job with Melo so far, and if he can get Stoudemire to buy into him (not his plays even, but Woodson the man), they’ll work. Melo’s triple-double against the Celtics is firm evidence that he’s much more likely to defer a bit to his teammates than ever before. As soon as the Knicks can get Anthony to pass the ball, we’ll see an increase in his shot selection, and they’ll be able to run high pick-and-rolls with STAT, and then they’re golden.  The Knicks need two things on offense, from my perspective. They need unselfish play from Anthony in pick-and-roll situations, and they need to move the ball from left to right in the halfcourt.  If they get defenses paying attention to that sort of movement, it will free up a TON of space for the stars to drive.

DR: With Amar’e coming back from injury soon, Woodson has indicated that he will insert him backing into the starting lineup. Thus, Carmelo will move back to small forward as he has been playing the four spot. I just wonder if this is going to hurt their defense moving forward since Stoudemire isn’t known as a defensive anything. But it looks like we will see a Knicks Heat first round series so that should be fun.

Anyway, there is one team flying under the radar right now and that is fairly unbelievable. The Indiana Pacers are cruising! They have won 10 of their last 11 games and are simply clicking on all levels. The change of tempo that Leandro Barbosa has brought to this team is remarkable. Danny Granger is efficient and resisting the ‘hero-mode’ urge more than usual. Roy Hibbert is a double-double machine and Tyler Hansbrough has returned to his ever scrappy play that we saw in the first round against the Bulls last year. Oh, and they have David West. This team IS dangerous, yet, no one is talking about them at length outside of the guys at eightpointsnineseconds.com. Whether they play Orlando or Atlanta in the first round, the Pacers should see the second round for the first time in a while.

TH: I love this Pacers squad so much.  They were a boatload of fun last season, and all the guys they added are quality.  Of course I have to love George Hill, but David West was such a wonderful pickup for these guys.  I truly feel that this time next year, once the Magic and Celtics and Hawks suck, they will cement themselves as a perennial contender and a new Bulls-Pacers rivalry will form, maybe one that puts Indiana on top.

DR: The job that Frank Vogel has done with this team is remarkable. They have won more games already this season, in a shortened year, than they did all of last year. There aren’t many teams that can make that claim who are making the playoffs.

I think, though, one of the biggest concerns going into the playoffs is the health of the star players. Derrick Rose has been hurt, Rajon Rondo landed hard on his coccyx last night, Howard is hurt, how will Amar’e integrate, and to a lesser extent, Zaza Pachulia is also hurt. Teams like the Bulls and Celtics need to be healthy if they expect to compete deep into the playoffs. I know players will play hurt in the post season with everything on the line but with the season wrapping up it might be wise just to rest players. Miami is already doing it. In fact they will probably be the most rested team by the time the postseason begins.

TH: I’m not going to lie, I burst out laughing when Zaza’s name came up. Only in Atlanta. Not exactly worthy of the “Highlight Factory,” but with Al Horford out, you take what you can get.

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Teams end season battling for playoff positions

Nothing is certain, yet, in the race for the last few playoff positions, but after last night, the picture is a little clearer. Heading into Sunday, Milwaukee, Denver, Houston, Phoenix, and Utah were all jockeying to hold or grab spots in the postseason. With about two weeks left in the season, the race to playoff seed is heating up.

Just a week ago, the Bucks were hot but have since hit a snag as they have faced some stiffer competition in the likes of the Thunder, Knicks, who they are trying to catch for eighth in the East, and the Pacers. They lost each of those contests. With six games remaining the Bucks need to either win out, there is likely no other option as they are two and a half games behind New York. Three of their remaining games will be against teams who are currently slated to make the postseason. They play the Pacers again, the Sixers, and the Celtics to close the regular season. Out of those three teams, Philadelphia is the most interesting.

The Sixers are currently experiencing a Mets-ian collapse since the All Star break. It looked, for a time, that they were going to run away with the Atlantic Division but now Boston has a firm grasp on the division title. Philadelphia has lost six of their last ten games and are now tied with the Knicks in last place in the playoff picture. A further fall from grace could lend a hand to Milwaukee as they fight to make the last seed.

Per usual, the West is cluttered when it comes to who is going to be the last couple of seeds heading into the postseason. Three and a half games separate the sixth seed Mavericks from the Jazz, who are currently tenth in the West. At this point it would take a complete collapse for Dallas  to miss the playoffs but they could certainly fall in the standings. Denver and Houston are tied in the standings and currently hold playoff spots. However, Phoenix is nipping at their heels sitting two and a half games back. Just a half game behind the Suns are the Jazz, who have surprised just about everyone this season as head coach Tyrone Corbin have molded into a formidable and balanced team. He needs to be mentioned in the Coach of the Year discussion, especially if the Jazz weasel their way into the playoffs.

An interesting twist to the race for the last two seeds in the West is that the Rockets and Nuggets play each other in a home and away Sunday and Monday. If either team drops both of these games it leaves the door wide open for the Suns and Jazz. Houston recently fell to both the Jazz and Suns and needs to sweep Denver today and tomorrow to essentially lock up a playoff spot.

Meanwhile, the Jazz and the Suns face off in Salt Lake City on April 24 in what could be a crucial meeting if the Rockets or Nuggets fall on consecutive nights to the other. Utah has a much easier schedule to end the season than the Suns as they face the Blazers, sans LaMarcus Aldridge, twice and the Magic, who are without Dwight Howard. The Suns, on the other hand, also face the Blazers but then must play the Thunder, Clippers, Nuggets, then the Jazz, and they close the regular season against the Spurs. To put it succinctly, the odds are not stacked in Phoenix’s favor.

The most interesting aspect of the rounding out of the playoff teams is that all the teams in the Eastern Conference could enter postseason play with winning records. It has been since the 2004-05 season since every team in the East in the playoffs had a winning record. Unfortunately for all the teams vying for those last few spots, their season will likely end with a first round exit.

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Show some Love for Ersan Ilyasova

Number cruncher

One of the most striking omissions of this contracted season is the amount of coverage concerning Ersan Ilyasova‘s outstanding season. Why is this? Is this because he plays for the Milwaukee Bucks, a team notorious as an island of misfit toys that sits four games under .500? They just acquired Monta Ellis and even then there was barely a peep about Ilyasova. No, his game is not as flashy as the Jeremy Lin breakout, but it is steady and methodical which bodes well when it comes to a player’s duration in the NBA.

As best as I can remember the last time a player was having a great season but was getting little, if any, attention it was Troy Murphy. Through the 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons with the Indiana Pacers, Murphy was a double-double machine. During the 08-09 season he averaged 15.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per 36 minutes. The next season he averaged 16.1 points and 11.3 boards. Yet, his play went virtually unnoticed. I seem to recall Marc Stein pointing it out in one of his weekly power rankings (searching for it has produced nothing as yet) but that was about all the attention he garnered.

This season it appears to be Ilyasova’s turn outside of the spotlight which is a same because he is putting together a remarkable season especially in lieu of the injury to Andrew Bogut, before he was dealt to Golden State. Ilyasova is averaging 16.5 points and 11.6 rebounds per 36 minutes. Since being reinserted into the starting lineup on February 17, he has averaged 18.8 points per game and 10.4 rebounds. During this current stretch, Ilyasova has accounted for 17 percent of the team’s total scoring while shooting a staggering 52.8 percent. Twice he has topped the 30-point plateau, scoring 31 and 32 points, with 32 being his career high.

On February 19, he scored 29 points and pulled in 25 rebounds, 13 of which were offensive boards. This game was at least briefly covered on SportsCenter that night but it was an afterthought due to their coverage of Linsanity. (Lin had 28 points and 14 rebounds that day in a comeback win against the Mavericks in case you were wondering.)

Ilyasova leads all Bucks in total rebounding percentage on the season. He collects 17.9 percent of all available rebounds while he is on the floor. With Bogut gone, he also grabs the highest percentage of defensive boards, 23.2, and of all players on the team who see discernible minutes, he has the offensive rebounding percentage at 13.1. Ilyasova is the Bucks’ best player. (Ellis is too new and streaky to qualify.)

The numbers are right there for anyone to see but they are simply being overlooked. Ilyasova’s name should be in every conversation when it comes to the NBA’s Most Improved Player especially now that Lin has been somewhat grounded. Yes, there are other that need to be mentioned, Ryan Anderson for example, but leading a team without an All Star is a far more impressive feat. It will be interesting to see how Ellis is integrated into the system, especially having only played one game with Milwaukee so far against his former team in which Ilyasova sat out with a bronchial condition. Another concern is the addition of Ekpe Udoh, Ilyasova will likely lose some minutes with his arrival. However, that should not decrease his efficiency.

Take note and get on board with Ilyasova. He is having a phenomenal season and we should all enjoy it. The best part is that he is still young and could potentially grow into on of the better players in the league, if he isn’t already. Judging by his numbers, he is.

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Warriors trade Ellis to Bucks for Bogut

Trading places

With the NBA trade deadline rapidly approaching, teams are weighing their options as rumors, per usual, swirl endlessly. Almost every rumor out there is centered on whether Dwight Howard will remain in Orlando beyond the deadline, which he has stated is his wish, or if he will be traded now so that the Magic can get something in return for their franchise player before he bolts in free agency this summer. Of course, Howard is not the only player that is on the trade block, Atlanta’s Josh Smith has requested to be traded, Carmelo Anthony‘s future in New York is blurred since his return to health and the recent skid the Knicks have been on. The likelihood of the Knicks moving Anthony is highly unlikely after what they gave up to acquire him, though. Paul Gasol is also a name that is currently in everyone’s mouth. Those are just some of the more well known players that have rampant speculation surrounding their every move. At this point, the only official trade that has occurred is between the Milwaukee Bucks and the Golden State Warriors.

Golden State has been looking to make a trade since last summer when Joe Lacob and his associates took over and had been in the thick of the speculation surrounding Howard. Now, however, they have traded Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh, and Kwame Brown to the Bucks in exchange for Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson. This move effectively removes Golden State from the race for Howard while also giving the team the a quality player in a position it has coveted.

Bogut, though, has been out for much of the season with a fractured left ankle and could potentially miss the remainder of the season as the initial timetable for his return was eight to ten weeks. He sustained the injury on January 25.

His career has been marred with injuries so his acquisition is therefore a risky one. However, Bogut’s presence in the middle, even if it is limited should be a great help to a team that has lacked interior scoring and defense for quite some time.

Any deal that Milwaukee was involved in was going to include Jackson. He fell out of favor with head coach Scott Skiles and was relegated to a bench role which the team reported was to let him recover from a hamstring injury. Statistically, this has been Jackson’s worst season since his sophomore effort. Combine that with his temperament and it is easy to understand why the Bucks were adamant about moving him.

Ellis playing in Milwaukee presents an interesting, if not all too unfamiliar, situation to the one in which played in with the Warriors. With Golden State, Ellis was paired in the backcourt with Stephen Curry. In Milwaukee he will be paired with Brandon Jennings. Ellis and Jennings are actually very similar players. Both have good ball handling skills which allows them to break down defenses but are more prone to take low percentage shots and shoot the ball inefficiently. At present, it is uncertain how they with mesh together on the floor. Ellis is the better pure scorer of the two and should help the sometimes anemic offense that befalls the Bucks but his average could dip.

Acquiring Ellis also begets the question: Are the Bucks planning to trade Jennings? What is the point of starting two similar players in the backcourt? There have been no rumors as yet to Jennings’ future with the team but a trade has to be an option that is now on the table.

As for the other two pieces, Udoh and Brown, it is Udoh with the most upside, and conversely, the most room to fail. Where Udoh fits into Milwaukee’s system will be important to his development. He will likely alternate between the center and power forward slots (those terms seem dated at this point) spelling Drew Gooden, Ersan Ilyasova, and sitting just above Jon Leuer in the rotation. This should effectively give him the minutes he needs but be most be productive. In his six starts with Golden State this season, Udoh has been just that averaging 12 points, 5.5 rebounds, and two blocks. He will not be getting starting minutes in Milwaukee but the sings of promise are there.

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Robert “Tractor” Traylor has died

Rest in peace

Robert Traylor has been found dead in his apartment in Isla Verde, Puerto Rico, according to his team, Vaqueros de Bayamon. He was just 34 years old.

Known by the nickname Tractor Traylor because of his girth and strength, he made a name for himself at Michigan, where he played for three years, before entering the NBA Draft in 1998. He was drafted by the Dallas Mavericks with the sixth overall pick. On draft day, the Mavericks traded Traylor to the Milwaukee Bucks for the ninth overall pick, Dirk Nowitzki.

Traylor would play seven seasons in the NBA with the Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers, as well as the Charlotte and New Orleans Hornets. He left the NBA in 2005 after struggling with conditioning, weight, and heart issues throughout his career. Traylor averaged 12 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per 36 minutes over his career.

After his stint in the NBA, Traylor moved to Europe to continue his career and played in Turkey and Italy before relocating to Puerto Rico.

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New York Nightmare: Melodrama Ch. 2

Wait for it.

This new era for the New York Knicks isn’t exactly starting the way fans had envisioned.  In fact, it’s turning into quite the nightmare.

Frank Isola with the New York Daily News mentioned that Carmelo Anthony’s honeymoon in the Big Apple is over.  Divorce papers aren’t being filed yet but Isola does have a point.

It looked like all fun and games when Melo debuted as a Knick on February 23rd with 27 points and 10 rebounds in a 114-108 win over the lowly Bucks.  However, the high from that game was short lived as they fell to the Cavs two nights later 109-115.   The big three, Amar’e Stoudemire, Chauncey Billups and Melo all had a big night with loaded stat sheets but the worst team in the NBA dropped 115 on them.

They responded with a win over the Heat and later with a win over New Orleans but both are arguably two of the most up and down teams in the league outside of the Knicks themselves.

Since the acquisition, the Knicks have gone 7-8 with back-to-back loses to the Pacers, a loss to the Pistons and an embarrassing defeat handed to them by the very team Melo debuted against, the Bucks.

Philadelphia has passed them in the standings and Atlanta has held onto their spot at fifth in the East easily with this New York team playing so poorly.  Right now, they hold onto the seventh spot in the conference and are poised to match up against either Boston or Chicago in the first round.

It seems inevitable that Mike D’antoni will not be leading this team into the second round and could very well be looking for a new job come summer.

The Melodrama did not end after the trade.

After the 99-95 loss to the Pistons that dropped them behind Philadelphia, Anthony declined speaking with reporters.  During the game, he refused to join one of the huddles and even went on to miss all five of his shots in the fourth quarter.  Stoudemire has mentioned that certain players are having a hard time adjusting to D’antoni’s system and we all know who he is talking about…

However, I can’t imagine why it would be Carmelo since he’s shooting 44.3 percent from the field with 24 points and 6 rebounds a game as a Knick.

It’s understandable why Amar’e is defending the D’antoni system that he has been playing under his entire career; however, this may be a sign that the days of all shoot and no defense are numbered in the NBA.

His Phoenix Suns will forever go down as the team that never really accomplished much other than a trip to the Western Conference Finals and some MVP trophies for Steve Nash.  They puttered out every season in the playoffs due to their style of play.

Now, he is enforcing the same system in New York but with even less depth.  Against the Bucks, the bench only mustered 13 points and went 5-20 from the field.  Their secondary unit is ranked 26th in the league with just over 25 a night.  The longest tenured player on the team is Toney Douglas in his second season with New York and they lost one of their most talented players in Raymond Felton during the trade.

It’s a simple case of too much too soon for these Knicks that are also giving up 106 points a night since acquiring Anthony.  You know you have a problem when the Milwaukee Bucks drop 100 on you when they are ranked last in the league in scoring at 91 a game.  By the way, their bench had only two points against New York.

Even Melo has stated that it will take some time and he’s right.  We all saw how slow it took Miami to finally start clicking and the same is true for New York.  Their offensive system is different for both Billups and Melo but with the way things are going, that may be changing soon.  New York is a high drama team performing in the world’s spotlight so of course they are going to get some flack for losing all these gimmies.

The Knicks will not be bringing the title home this year and a first-round upset is not in their cards.  You can buy titles these days but they may need to wait until next year.

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Eastern teams should be wary of the ides of March

Are all thy conquests, glories, triumphs, spoils, Shrunk to this little measure?

The ides of March is upon us and there are several NBA teams that have reason to beware, especially when it concerns their playoff fate. Teams around the league are beginning to lock up playoff spots, the East already has three such teams (Boston, Chicago, Miami) because it is still the weaker of the two conferences. Out West on San Antonio has secured a playoff bid as of March 15. These teams need not worry about their post season appearances. The ides of March did not only have serious connotations for Julius Caesar, it also marks just less than a month of the regular season left to play and when teams either rise or get murdered in a coup on the floor of the theater of Pompey. Towards the bottom of the standings is where we find the teams who are looking over their shoulders almost constantly. They hope to not be the ones to utter the words, “et tu playoffs? Then fall, (insert team name here)!”

In the Eastern Conference the jockeying for the final few playoff seeds has been taking a rather disastrous turn for all teams involved of late. The Philadelphia 76ers likely will not drop from their seventh seed anytime soon but their play of late has been marred by unenthusiastic and disinterested displays on the court which has led Doug Collins to use the word terrible when describing his team’s efforts. The Sixers have lost two in a row in stylish blowout and near blowout form (they were down 15 in the fourth quarter to the Jazz) after upsetting the coasting Celtics.

While the Sixers look to lockup the seventh seed, the eighth seed remains wide open. The Indiana Pacers, Charlotte Bobcats, and Milwaukee Bucks are all vying to creep into the playoffs but none of them are by any means as constant as the northern star.

Indiana currently holds a slight advantage over Charlotte for the eighth seed despite the two team’s identical 28-38 records. This is thanks to having defeated the Bobcats all three times the teams have met this season. However, Indiana is currently on a skid which has allowed Charlotte and Milwaukee to think themselves worthy of a playoff bid. The Pacers have only won two of their last ten games, six of their last ten were on the road, and during that span the team has shot only 42.6 percent from the floor while giving up an average of 105.8 points. Indiana’s average total per game during this slump has been 97.2 points. This is not a recipe for success, especially when they only played two top-tier teams over their last ten, both road games, in Oklahoma City and Dallas.

The Pacers’ schedule is not laced with tough teams for the remainder of the season, however, they must face the New York Knickerbockers twice, the Celtics twice, and the Bulls, Memphis Grizzlies, New Orleans Hornets, and Orlando Magic before the regular season draws to a close. Also in that span they must play the Bobcats and Bucks which may turn out to be Indiana’s most important games if they hope to stave off their immediate competition.

Since paul Silas took over for Larry Brown in Charlotte, the Bobcats have gone 19-19. This is a major reason for them being within reach of the playoffs. Over their last ten games they have gone 4-6, with all six of their losses coming in a row. All but one of those losses were at the hands of playoff bound teams. Against the Magic, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, and Bulls the Bobcats mustered an average of 80.6 points on approximately 41 percent shooting while surrendering 101.2 points per game in those five losses and allowing their opponent to shoot 48.9 percent. With numbers like these, Michael Jordan needs to decide if watching his team be swept in the first round is even worth it. This is a team that is primed and ready to be blown up this summer.

What more is there to say about the Bucks after that pathetic performance against the Celitcs where they only scored 56 points. Clearly, the ides of March arrived slightly early for the Bucks. If Milwaukee, and their anemic scoring,  somehow makes its way into the playoffs, both the Pacers and Bobcats should spend next season in the D-League to reflect upon the embarrassment that they brought on the league.

It says a lot about the Eastern Conference that, statistically, the Cleveland Cavaliers are not yet out of the playoff chase. Statistically they could still mike it while in the West both the Minnesota Timberwolves and Sacramento Kings are out. Now, realistically, the Cavs have no shot at making the playoffs but that should serve to temper the comments that the East is now the dominant conference.

The Western Conference is slightly more complicated, however, the teams currently sitting in the lower playoff spots may be the ones that ultimately make the playoffs. Right now, only four and half games separate the sixth seed and the eleventh seed and each of these teams (New Orleans, Portland, Memphis,  Utah, Phoenix, and Houston) has a record of .500 or better. On top of that, each has won at least five of their last ten games as they know that not just making the playoffs, but playoff seeding is on the line.

Lower seeded Western Conference teams will likely fair somewhat better in the first round of the playoffs as opposed to their counterparts in the East. This is simply because the distribution of talent is not as top-heavy as it is in the Eastern Conference. This is why there has been a better likelihood of an upset in the West over the past several years.

The bottom tier of the Eastern Conference playoff picture has a long way to go if it is to ever become relevant. Teams slipping into the playoffs with a sub-.500 record bring nothing to the table. Sure there are some decent to good players on these teams but in a division that holds the Nets, Raptors, and Cavaliers there is no reason not to find a couple more wins during the season. Outside of the top four teams in the East, there is nothing but teams asking for handouts in the forms of wins. None will see the light of the second round. When beggars die, there are no comets seen.

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