Community Shootaround: Eastern Conference Early Impressions

A handful of Eastern Conference teams are just about exactly where we’d expect them to be through the first two weeks of the 2020/21 season. I don’t imagine, for instance, that anyone is especially shocked by the records put up so far by teams like the Pacers (5-2), Celtics (5-3), Hawks (4-3), Hornets (2-5), or Pistons (1-6).

However, there are also plenty of surprises at both the top and the bottom of the conference standings. It is, of course, still very early in the season, so any trends from the last couple weeks could be easily reversed before the end of January, but now that every team has played between six and eight games, it’s worth checking in on the early results to see how sustainable they might be.

The Sixers (6-1), Magic (5-2), Knicks (4-3), and Cavaliers (4-3) are among the pleasant surprises so far. The 76ers have benefited from a relatively soft schedule and were viewed as a slam-dunk playoff team before the season, but the fact that they hold the NBA’s best record is still impressive.

Orlando, meanwhile, was considered a borderline playoff team, while New York and Cleveland were expected to be in the lottery. The Magic and Cavs have taken advantage of roster continuity to get off to a strong start, while new head coach Tom Thibodeau appears to have be having an impact for the Knicks.

In the middle of the pack, the Bucks (4-3), Nets (4-4), and Heat (3-3) have been up and down, but it seems likely that it’ll be just a matter of time before they hit their stride. Milwaukee and Brooklyn, in particular, each rank in the top five in the league in net rating, despite their middling records.

In the lottery, the biggest disappointment so far has been the 1-5 Raptors, who have had one of the NBA’s worst offenses through their first six games. While Toronto is too talented to remain in the 14th seed for much longer, the team’s early struggles suggest it may not be easy to adequately fill the holes that were created in the frontcourt when Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol departed in free agency.

Elsewhere in the lottery, the 4-4 Bulls have slightly outperformed expectations so far, while the 2-5 Wizards have looked a little better after a disastrous start.

We want to know what you think: What are your early impressions of the Eastern Conference race?

How many of those surprise teams in the playoff picture do you think will remain there? Is it just a matter of time before the likes of the Magic, Knicks, and Cavaliers drop way down the standings, or do any of them have legit staying power? Can the Sixers hold the top seed? Will the Raptors rebound and comfortably make the playoffs or will they spend the season vying for a spot in the play-in tournament?

Head to the comment section below to weigh in with your early thoughts on the East!

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27 thoughts on “Community Shootaround: Eastern Conference Early Impressions

  1. brownscavsr4me

    The Cavs record will start to reflect what people thought it would be here soon because of all these injuries. On the opposite side of things, I feel that the Bucks, Nets, and Heat will figure things out.

    • harden (mvp),wall, and wood

      The Bucks and the Heat should have no problem getting back to the top of the east. There is so much parity amongst most of the other 13 teams.

      • KnickerbockerAl

        Really ???? You see that after 7 gms.
        Bucks, Heat, Celtics, Nets, Sixers came in as the cream. All healthy are capable of winning east. Still early. And injuries are playing a role. Hope that changes.

        • x%sure

          Agree with OP and about the Sixers. Rivers should make a big difference with Tobias- already has- and there is good material around the true big three.

          Randle also found a good coach for him. Irving is playing great and Nash sounds smart.

          The Raptors and Heat will pay for Ujiri & Riley saving up for 2021/Giannis. The Bulls are terrible and the Wizards have mystified me.

  2. Sillivan

    76ers have 5 wins against 12-15 seeds in current East standing ?
    1 win against Magic
    But were blown out by Cavs

  3. Cap & Crunch

    I like Philly if they can keep their top 9 healthy at the end…any injs will be tough to cover internally or via trade w this team tho

    Have to be pleased if your a Nets fan even despite the record- KD and Kyrie healthy, they a tough out

    Bos will only go as far as Tatum evolves- So far he’s met the bar every year, but that bar keeps getting higher – tbd

    Mil- Call me in the playoffs tbd

    Mia- No worries, mental/physical exhaustion shoulda been expected

    Atl- Too young, too dumb (pelicans) too soon and I fear they let their best player Collins walk or never utilize him properly. Trae Young leaves a lot to be desired but times on his side. I dont see the future top 20 player in the making that it seems the NBA hype machine is trying to fix him up to be

    Tor- Much respect on past but this roller coaster is going down

    Indy- Smart/tough/5 seed/tough playoff series/star away/rinse& repeat

  4. Simmons>Russ

    Sixers have had an easy schedule but it’s been good in building confidence among the playing group and I think they will continue to win against better opponents. I think having a experienced quality head coach like Doc Rivers also goes along way to having a good regular season record.

    As for the other teams. Cavs have impressed mainly due to Sexton and Garland big improvement and Okoro. The Knicks have been solid for their standards and that’s mainly due to Juilius Randle who is balling hard right now.
    I knew the Raptors would struggle cause they lost two keys bigs and the backcourt of Lowry and FVV was getting predictable.
    Also the Heat had a poor FA, lost Jones Jr and Crowder but decided to bring back Leonard and didn’t really address the gap at PF. Should’ve done more to chase Millsap who I think would’ve been a good 1 year rental and solid fit.
    Bucks will come back big surprised they aren’t doing better

  5. Sillivan

    Celtics would be the best team in the East after two trades

    1
    Robert Williams for Warriors DPE
    2
    Draymond Green for Celtics TPE

    • Marty McRae

      Imagine Lacob telling the fans he replaced Draymond with ROBERT WILLIAMS and his 3 career starts and 60 games lolololololololoololol

      lololololololol

      Let it go man, GSW aren’t trading anyone – they would have done that before the draft.

  6. El Don

    PHI has started very well, but, the worry is that so far both Simmons & Embiid have been very much underwhelming so far.
    Simmons is playing his worst ever, so far, early days I know.
    Embiid is definitely having a down time so far, again early days.
    My worry is that if these two don’t pick up soon enough & start playing as they should… ain’t looking good for PHI.
    MIA they weren’t that good last year, this year they gone backwards.
    BOS not very impressive, nothing in the inside to compete with the top teams.
    BRK very good so far, specially as KD is playing as good as before the injury, which no one really expected… & that is great news for them.
    IND very impressive so far, they will go as far as Sabonis & to a lesser point Brogdon takes them to.
    MIL will be fine, as long as Giannis is getting back to his usual self.
    ATL very good, specially as they playing their young guys, good that Gallo & Dunn are out & Bog is riding the bench. Ice Trae is an absolute monster of a player.
    TOR might struggle to make it to the play in, unless Siakam gets any good, so far he has been sooo much beyond horrible!

    • thughand

      Have you watched any Sixers game this season? Yo, Embiid looks WAY better this year than he typically looks early on. He showed up in better shape. He’s moving quicker. He’s taking less dumb shots. His stats may look different, but he actually has shooters on the wings now. Tobias is playing like someone stole his Grandma’s purse.

  7. mike.honcho

    These uneven results were generally expected.

    The early start, lack of fans, revised game schedules, etc, hence we see an increase in sloppy play and high number of blowouts.

    Even the LAKERS at 6-2 haven’t gotten those wins easily, they’ve had mostly close games – Lebron and AD talent wins out in the end.

    Assuming COVID cases, quarantines can be controlled, the league standings will generally correct itself in a month or two.

    HEAT, NETS, WIZARDS, even RAPTORS should rise in the East …….. though I kinda expected some fall-off from the RAPTORS this season, losing Ibaka & fat Gasol.

    MAVS, ROCKETS (assuming Harden stays, somehow) will rise in the West ……… I expected this struggle from the NUGGETS, crucial that they lose Grant & Craig, two of their best defenders from last season.

    • Cap & Crunch

      Yup, to be expected –

      First 20 games sets the base – Teams should settle in the last 17 before the break and we will see trends

      Nice to see some teams like Orl Cle hanging tough, always nice to see some extra buyers at the deadline if possible – Should be a pretty active break come March with movements

      • mike.honcho

        Indeed, fresher teams like the MAGIC, CAVS, KNICKS, SUNS, KINGS, etc should take full advantage of this first 2 months of the new season.

        Many teams still rounding-up their conditioning, breaking-in new players, recovering from injuries – those lesser teams should get every single win they can.

        Who knows, a team like the MAGIC, who I estimate to be in that 9th-10th spot, just might end up a rung higher at 6th-8th.

        Da BULLS I figured to be competing for a play-in spot – just because Donovan’s there, 1 more year experience for the young guys and Porter returning ……… I have the receipts.

  8. KnickerbockerAl

    Ben is at 13.3 pts, 9.9 reb, 7.0 ast. .507% FG,
    .611 %FT. And running team and playing D. I’d say he’s good so far. Sixers winning.
    Doc has been a good influence on Sixers. And the shooters are a better mix. But their schedule has been light. Still I think they are capable of east Finals. Still early right now. Magic are playing well, considering their injuries. Nets will miss Dinwiddie. Eventually I think they make a trade. Thibs has been exactly what Knicks need. For Knicks it’s all about building the young core. Maybe making a good trade at some point. There are some surprises but it’s still early. I’d rather give it 30 gms before I consider real trends. This injury jinx is awful. Toppin get healthy bro

    • buttholesurfer69

      I may be in the minority here but I look at that stat line for Simmons and just think, “Again???”

      This is the 4th season of Ben Simmons’ copy and pasting his box scores from one season to the next.

      And the crux of the Philly Can Contend argument has historically been “Well Simmons will improve his shot”

      In contrast, you look at Tatum and Brown in Boston, almost every year incremental improvements. That’s what’s supposed to happen w/ under 25 guys

      If this is who Simmons is he’s a really good player. But I don’t think it’ll be enough for Philly’s title hopes.

      • KnickerbockerAl

        He’s all NBA defensive team material. I just think they should stop trying to make him next Magic. Bron was a forward for almost whole career. Ben is more dangerous at the wing to me. There isn’t a 3 or 4 that can guard him.

    • x%sure

      Those numbers for Simmons are off a little offensively. But there are a couple of statistics for defense too, and those are up. You don’t have to simply claim it, like I was last year for his DPOY candidacy. I think he’s going for it this year!

      His DRtg is 99, a remarkably low (good) number for this day & age, and on the perimeter, and lower than before. He’s not just covering ground and getting a hand on the ball, but is shutting down on-man opponents.

      His DBPM, def. box plus minus, is also improved to 3.0, tied for the NBA lead. link to basketball-reference.com::dbpm. Most of the others at the top play on the inside.

      On Bas.Ref, there’s also DWS. Also there’s the eye test! :D

    • Good point. Sleepers in the east. Good roster and Oladipo is in a contract year. Right? Hopefully trying to prove his worth.

      • Magnificent with Sensational style 416

        Yup. Oladipo looks like he is back to his allstar form…

      • Magnificent with Sensational style 416

        Yup. Oladipo looks like he’s back to allstar form…

  9. Curtisrowe

    El Don “No one cares about teams”

    #writes 1000 words about his thoughts on teams.

    • x%sure

      Teams as requested, but in terms of the players on them. I might say he should have included the GMs with regards to TOR & MIA, but he got to the same place.

      Is that the only curtis rowe (high) post position? HR keeps the community shootaround articles, though I suspect you find the posters more interesting…

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