Eastern Conference: Who's Hot? Who's Cold?
*Photo via ESPN
Hot: Toronto Raptors (11-7) last ten games (6-4)
- The Raptors in a stronger Eastern Conference, have the easiest division by far with two of the league’s five worst teams (Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers). The Raptors haven't been at full strength due to Jonas Valanciunas’ hand injury, which is likely to keep him out for another five or six weeks. However, they’ve managed to keep on rolling prior to the loss against the Phoenix Suns. The Raptors won four straight during that streak with wins against the Los Angeles Clippers, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Washington Wizards. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry have been the focal points of the offense as both are averaging over 20ppg.
*Photo via USA Today
Cold: Philadelphia 76ers (0-18)
- What else describes the 76ers besides cold? Not much, aside from Jahlil Okafor (who’s recent run-ins with the law are raising questions) there hasn’t been a real bright spot with this team. It’s yet another year where the 76ers are in full tank mode. If you’re a 76ers fan, you might as well root for more losses in order to lock up a top draft pick. Nerlens Noel has also looked good. You can surely see that if the progression continues and this team starts furthering their rebuild they have their franchise cornerstones down low.
*Photo via USA Today
Hot: Indiana Pacers (11-5) last ten games (8-2)
- As I’ve said numerous times this season, Paul George is on his “remember me?” campaign. The Pacer has looked better than he did prior to his leg injury, and if there wasn’t already a reigning MVP running rampant in the Western Conference, George would be a contender. Now aside from George playing his stellar two-way style, there’ve been numerous players raising their game. C.J Miles has been healthy as of late and we’ve seen the threat he can be from deep alongside George and a further progressed George Hill. Despite how fluent the offense has been as of late the defense is still what has been the vocal point for the Pacers. As they still have the third ranked defense in the league and are averaging the second most steals per game.
*Photo via WTOP
Cold: Milwaukee Bucks (7-11) last ten games (3-7)
- After surprising us last season with a playoff appearance, the Bucks have stumbled out of the gate. After signing big man Greg Monroe this offseason the team hasn’t seemed to found it’s defensive identity it was known for last year. So far this season the Bucks are minus six in point differential, and are in the bottom half of the league for opponent’s field goal percentage. The season is young, but the Bucks have a tough stretch of games upcoming which has the possibility of putting them in a deep hole for the season.
*Photo via USA Today
Hot: Miami Heat (10-6) last ten games (6-4)
- No LeBron, no problem? I wouldn’t go quite that far yet. However, Miami has looked strong defensively and found themselves in the top three in opponent’s field goal percentage. This is also the first time in several years that Wade has been this healthy. Wade has turned back the clock so it seems as he’s taken on being the leader of the Heat once again. Alongside Wade, we’ve seen Chris Bosh remain a constant producer but the real reason for this hot start is the giant down low, Hassan Whiteside. Whiteside gave us a sneak peak last year of what he was capable of and came out this year showing it was for real. Whiteside is a walking double-double and he’s become the defensive anchor for this squad as he’s sending back just under five shots per game. Now Miami’s about to see a heat check as their upcoming schedule has them playing the Oklahoma City Thunder, Cleveland Cavaliers, Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets
and Indiana Pacers.
*Photo via Washington Post
Cold: Washington Wizards (6-8) last ten games (3-7)
- The Wizards have been a roller coaster to start this season. We’ve seen dramatic finishes coming from the hands of Bradley Beal against the San Antonio Spurs. Then we’ve seen this Wizards team lose six of their eight losses by double digits. It seems to be boom or bust on a nightly basis for the Wizards. Now having Beal back and healthy should help turn things around, but ultimately, it starts with the defense and John Wall. Wall has struggled early this year shooting a measly 39 percent from field and leading the team with just over four turnovers a game. The turnaround starts with Wall playing at a cleaner more efficient game and leading this team. The Wizards are currently in the bottom five in the league for opponent’s field goal percentage and are the second worst team in defending the three point shot. The quick end to this cold spell must come on the defensive end.