• Max Russo

Who Is the Second Best Team in the East?

The Eastern Conference in the NBA has been, for years now, recognized as weaker compared to the Western Conference. This assumption has been brought about by the fact that the West, statistically, has been far more superior to the East in terms of having a larger of better teams in recent years. However, during this 2015-2016 season, the Eastern Conference teams have improved mightily and the two conferences are starting to balance out more and more.

As usual there are always some teams year after year that are just expected to finish at the top of each conference. Although the Eastern Conference improved greatly, the Cleveland Cavaliers are still by far the conference’s best team. Partly because they have one of the greatest players of all time in LeBron James, the Cavs are as of now undoubtedly the team to beat in the East. However, after the Cavs it is quite unclear as to who exactly plays the second fiddle.

There are a handful of teams in the East who are deserving of the second spot. These teams include, the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Chicago Bulls and potentially the Toronto Raptors. All four of these teams have the talent to be the second seed in the East, however none of them make a strong case for taking the spot unanimously.

Miami Heat

*Photo via USA Today

The Miami Heat have a tremendous amount of talent and experience. Their acquisition of Goran Dragic at last season’s trade deadline boosted their backcourt and gave Dwyane Wade another weapon on the offensive end. With the return of All-Star Chris Bosh, and emergence of young big man Hassan Whiteside, the Heat pose a threat to all Eastern Conference teams and have the ability to make a deep playoff run. When fully healthy the Heat should be the East’s second best team given all the talent they have. The question however is if they can consistently perform on a nightly bases and regain their superiority after the departure of LeBron James during the summer of 2014.

Indiana Pacers

*Photo via USA Today

The Indiana Pacers have shocked many with their impressive start to this 2015-2016 season. The return of Paul George has been an important factor along with the key offseason acquisition of Monta Ellis. Coach Frank Vogel has elected to go small and with the changing NBA and it is proving to be a good decision so far.

The Pacers squad has good energy on the defensive end and is among the top teams in scoring fast break points off opponent’s turnovers. For years this Pacers team has been considered a defensive stalwart, and they must be so if they wish to make a run in the playoffs. As of right now, this Pacers team isn’t the second best team in the East, but as the season progresses they should end up as one of the East’s top three teams.

Chicago Bulls

*Photo via USA Today

The team that as of now makes the best case for being the second best team in the East is the Chicago Bulls. With the return of a relatively healthy Derrick Rose, the continuous emergence of Jimmy Butler and the unexpected positive contributions from players like Bobby Portis and Doug McDermott, the Bulls have put the East and the rest of the league on watch. The key to success for this Bulls team is consistency and health. If they can stay healthy and remain consistent on the defensive end, they are the Cavaliers’ most feared opponent come playoff time.

With the hiring of new head coach Fred Hoiberg, the Bulls team right now still hasn’t found it’s groove. There is a totally new culture that has been implemented and it will take some time. However when the NBA playoffs begin, the Bulls should have it all figured out and if they are able to remain healthy, they will put fear into the eyes of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Toronto Raptors

*Photo via USA Today

Finally, a team that by some may be considered the second best team in the East is the Toronto Raptors. Although they may fly under the radar at times, the Raptors are a very talented team. With their duo of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors have a backcourt that can compete with the best in the East. A weakness this Raptors team has however is youth and coaching.

Dwane Casey is often criticized for his rotations and offensive creativity and not all of the criticism is undeserved. Tune into any Raptors game and you are sure to see that the majority of their offense is isolation or one-on-one basketball. Obviously this is a lack of offensive creativity on Casey’s part, but the Raptors team has two very good isolation players in DeRozan and Lowry. With that being said, at the end of this season the Raptors could very well end up in the second seed, however their brand of basketball just isn’t scary to other teams in the playoffs and therefore they don’t really seem to pose a threat to any of the East’s top teams.

By the time the playoffs roll around the Cleveland Cavaliers will surely be considered the team to beat. They have arguably the best player in the NBA and a very talented young point guard in Kyrie Irving. They are hands down the best team in the East and at this point it isn’t even close. However if the Heat, Pacers, Bulls or Raptors are able to improve their play and maybe make one or two moves at the trade deadline the scene in the East could look a whole lot different as the season progresses.

#NBA #Cavs #Heat #Bulls #Raptors #Pacers