NBA 2017-18: High-Flyers and Busts of the Eastern Conference

By 3 years ago

A quarter of the season has passed and it’s an apt time to assess what’s going on in the NBA. To kick things off, a lot of teams are playing out of their skin. A whole lot of other teams are failing everybody’s expectations. We got teams like the Cavaliers who despite a slow start are right back on track. On the flip side, we have Orlando Magic who raced to the top only to drop down to lottery later. There’s a lot of juggling going on in the eastern conference.

Eastern Conference: The High-Flyers

#3 Philadelphia 76ers

The duo of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons has been exceptionally good so far this season.

The most exciting team in the NBA is set to become the most promising team in the league. The future doesn’t get any brighter for a team rebuilding for the past half decade. Their franchise face Joel Embiid hasn’t missed many games so far. Rookie Ben Simmons is looking like a seasoned player already. The Sixers are currently 5th in the eastern conference with a 12-9 record. Playoff hopes are no more just a possibility, it’s the least everyone expects from them.

The young soon to be All-Star duo of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons is wreaking chaos on the court. Embiid is averaging 22 points and 11 rebounds while Simmons is filling up the statsheet with his 18 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists per game averages. Embiid has just missed 3 games so far which is ridiculous when just a few weeks ago, he was set to miss half the regular season (reportedly).

They are the perfect team for the modern NBA. With demigods, veteran presence and an organisation backing the team every step of the way, not much can go wrong in the future. Get on the Sixers bandwagon while it’s still early.

#2 Detroit Pistons

From not making the playoffs last season to the top of the eastern conference standings, the Detroit Pistons have come a long way. Their 14-6 record is ranked 2nd in the east and looks like the playoff picture in the east will most likely change this year.

Detroit is a changed team this year, top to bottom. Their defensive intensity seems to have picked up upon the arrival of Avery Bradley. They are allowing just 102 points per game which is seventh in the league. They are top ten in both, offensive rating and defensive rating. Most of all, they are playing like a unit. Their star big man Andre Drummond is averaging career highs in rebounds and assists while shooting free throws at a much improved rate of 63 percent. Reggie Jackson, Avery Bradley and Tobias Harris are all double-digit scorers. Their second unit is being led by Ish Smith who is good enough to start for most teams in the league.

So far, so good. It would be interesting to see how far the Pistons go. It’s pretty common for teams to lose their juice midway through the season.

#1 Boston Celtics

Masked Kyrie Irving has unmasked a whole another side of the Kyrie Irving we knew.

It’s a common saying in basketball, “defence wins games.” Boston Celtics have put life in these 3 words. Their number 1 defence has propelled their number 12 offence so far. It is what facilitated their 16 game winning streak that landed them atop the eastern conference standings. So far, they have blown out every single they’ve played against.

Everyone pretty much knew the Cs were gonna be good. We just didn’t know how much and we certainly didn’t know a thing once Gordon Hayward was sidelined for the season. The elite defence they are playing has really come as a surprise for everyone. They don’t have any one player controlling the defence, they are all going to work. They have seven players averaging more than 9 points and five with double-digit scoring averages. Due to their bench depth, they can play a lot of lineups and they have, without breaking a sweat.

If any team can put some life back into the eastern conference, it is the Celtics. The way they’re playing this season, it’s no fluke. Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum are playing like big time players They’re not afraid of the lights. We already know what Al Horford and Kyrie Irving bring to the table. They’re scary good right now.

And now moving on to the busts…

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The Busts

#3 Orlando Magic

Early on in the season, Orlando Magic was looking like a high-flyer. They were able to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers and grab the top spot in the east. They are currently 11th in the eastern conference standings with a 9-13 record and it’s gonna stay that way for the rest of the season. Magic is a classic bust case.

Call it a stroke of luck or whatever, but those first few games tell a lot about this team’s capabilities. We now know that Aaron Gordon has what it takes to be a legit Power Forward in the league. So far, he’a averaging 19 points and 8 rebounds while shooting at a 43% clip from 3-point line. He’s shooting at an elite level. Their starting lineup can match up to most teams. Four of their starters score in double-digits every game. In their second unit, we have the rags-to-riches story Jonathon Simmons who’s averaging 14 PPG in just 25 minutes. Their offence is all right. It’s their 5th worst in the NBA defence that’s bogging them down as the season is progressing.

They still have a lot to do to be a team worth talking in the eastern conference. For now, they’re headed towards the lottery.

#2 Charlotte Hornets

Playoff Bound. Those were the words Kemba Walker chose to say when asked what are his thoughts on the Hornets this year. The way they are playing right now, they’re not going anywhere near the playoffs. They are 12th in the east with an 8-12 record. They are playing really at home where they have a 7-3 record. It’s the road where they’re getting totalled. Hornets have an abysmal 1-9 record in away games so far.

The Hornets are not doing anything particularly bad or good neither on offence nor on defence. They just happen to lose it when the stakes get high. Their home record is a positive sign amidst all the road losses. Kemba Walker is still playing elite All-Star level basketball. He’s averaging 22 points, 6 assists and almost 4 rebounds for the season. The Dwight Howard gamble seems to be working so far for the Hornets as he’s averaging 15 points and 12 rebounds per game. Jeremy Lamb is playing one heck of a role for this team after riding the bench for most of his career. He’s averaging a 16pt-5reb-4ast statline in 29 minutes. Nick Batum, who was out due to injury is back in the Hornets’ starting lineup. That’s an instant scoring boost. Besides this, they don’t have a lot coming from the bench. As the season progresses, it might wear down on their core players.

At this moment, it’s difficult to say where they are headed. On paper, they look like a team that has playoff hope. We’ll see what happens.

#1 Washington Wizards

It’s the Wizards again. Just like last season, they’ve gotten off to a painfully slow start. They are 8th in the conference standings with an 11-10 record. They are not doing anything particularly bad. They’re working on the defensive end. Their offence isn’t too bad either. But a lot more was expected from them this season. They are one team that hasn’t gone through any roster changes in the off-season. So despite zero need for developing chemistry on the court, they somehow messed it up.

The Wizards did do a few things right. Giving Otto Porter a max contract seems to be paying off as he’s averaging 16 points and 7 rebounds while shooting at a 47.5% conversion rate from deep. Here’s the icing on the cake; he’s averaging just 0.9 turnovers per game. Bradley Beal is still playing like an All-Star averaging 23 points. John Wall is still posting up near double-double numbers. Kelly Oubre is getting a whole lot of playing time and averaging 12 PPG so far. Their starting lineup is working just right. But just like last season, they’re not a deep bench team. It’s already a problem for them.

All this might just be water under the bridge. If they were able to bounce back last year, they should be able to do the same this year too. But it’s gonna take a little more this season.

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