By Jalen Morris
The Eastern Conference is no longer the underdog of the NBA. With the emergence of teams such as the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat, the Eastern Conference is shedding its reputation as the inferior Conference.
Two years ago, ESPN NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy called some Eastern Conference games embarrassing, the conference so dreadful it was difficult to stomach their games.
Van Gundy has noticed the rise of the Eastern Conference.
“The East is significantly better,” said Van Gundy.
Although the two best teams in the league (Golden State, San Antonio) are in the West, there is no doubt that the East is better and shaping up to become a very competitive opponent leading up to the All-Star break.
“Of course I like it,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Dec. 1 on a Portland Trail Blazers telecast. “It’s still early in the season, so we’ll see…. You have a lot of competitive teams.”
As of now, there are eight teams in the East above .500 which is tied with the number of teams at or above .500 in the West and more than half of the number of teams in the East. By looking at the number of teams above .500, it is apparent that there is more balance between the teams in the East and there is no team that seems to be more superior than the others.
The Eastern Conference though is still… the Eastern Conference. Even though it appears that there is more balance between the teams in the East, the Cleveland Cavaliers are still the favorites to win the Eastern Conference and reach the NBA Finals. Although the Cavaliers are the favorites, there are also a number of teams in the mix competing for that one spot in the NBA Finals.
The Cavaliers are at the top. The Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, and Atlanta Hawks are a few spots down. The Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers are good teams but both teams are very inconsistent and are unable to gel as a cohesive unit. The other teams fighting for playoff spots leading up to the second half of the season — the Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Hornets, Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic, and New York Knicks — are basically in the same position. They are all teams under or slightly above .500 struggling to find their niche.