Eastern conference worse than usual in NBA this season

By Spencer Brown

A funny thing happened Monday morning.

We are almost a quarter way through the NBA season and getting ready for the Christmas Day games. What’s so comical about that?

Well, at 1:59 a.m. Monday, I discovered there is a grand total of two teams above .500 in the Eastern Conference. I repeat, two. 

Talk about top heavy. This is pushing it to the limit.

The Indiana Pacers sat at 16-1 prior to their game against Portland. They have the best record in basketball. The two-time defending champion Miami Heat are 14-3. Then there is a major drop off. Compare that with the Western Conference, which has 12 teams that are at least .500.

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How is this possible?

The Pacers and Heat were expected to perform marvelously from the beginning of the season, so their quick starts are no surprise. Even if the East were more competitive, these two clubs would still have a similar start to the season. 

There is a multitude of factors, however, to account for the terrible imbalance.

For starters, the Eastern Conference has a lot of flat-out bad teams.

The Milwaukee Bucks are a perfect example. They have the worst record in the conference at 3-13 and rightfully so. This is a very young team with the majority of its players having little to no playoff experience, and it shows. None of these players has ever been a No. 1 option outside of Caron Butler, but he is on the downside of his career. A massive roster overhaul over the summer has not panned out well.

In addition to bad teams are inexperienced coaches.

There are eight NBA coaches in the Eastern Conference that had never coached a game before this season. The adjustment to the professional game has been rough for these new coaches. Having that many coaching changes within a conference is signaling a win-now philosophy; however, that misplaced desire by ownership has placed a lot on inexperience on the sideline and has decreased their chances of winning, as well as the quality of basketball. 

Injuries in certain cases have derailed some teams in the early season. 

The Chicago Bulls were happy to welcome back All-Star point guard Derrick Rose after he missed all of last season with a torn ACL. Unfortunately just a month into the season, Rose fell victim to yet another knee injury. A torn meniscus in his right knee will sideline him for the rest of this season. The Bulls have had a tough time adjusting to yet another season without their anchor.

Some Eastern Conference teams are stuck in basketball purgatory.

The Toronto Raptors and Atlanta Hawks support this claim. The Raptors feature Rudy Gay and DeMar Derozan, the second coming of Vince Carter and T-Mac. Much like the Raptors teams of Carter and McGrady, this team’s ceiling is a .500 season. They draft a lot of international players and obtain a lot of athletes, but it never seems to mesh and produce wins. The Hawks face a similar dilemma. Simply put, they are what they are. Atlanta never attracts big-name talent and usually is shipping better players out and not getting a huge return on them. They do not draft particularly well, either. They will never be better than a middle-of-the-pack team, which this year could mean finishing the season 40-42 for a playoff spot.

There’s also the state of New York.

This is the epitome of failed expectations. The New York Knicks actually found a way to downgrade their strength from last year, three point shooting, and actually get worse defensively. Carmelo Anthony is taking his usual number of bad shots, but judging by the lack of effort of his teammates this season, you can’t really blame him. 

The Brooklyn Nets are a prime example of how big names do not guarantee success on the court. Kevin Garnett has not been the K.G. of old. Paul Pierce just broke his hand. Joe Johnson fades in and out as he typically does. Deron Williams has not been the top-tier point guard he’s been in past years. Oh, and Jason Kidd has a problem holding on to his cup.

Every team outside of the Pacers and Heat suffer from one or all of these ailments. These teams are wildly unpredictable. They beat up on one another because they are all considerably inconsistent and level the playing field on any given night. 

It’s funny how six of these teams that are currently underperforming will be in the playoffs. 

It will be no joke when they land in Indiana or Miami. 

Spencer is a senior in LAS. He can be reached at [email protected].