The NBA Eastern Conference landscape is far different than it has been in years especially since LeBron James has returned home to Cleveland and teams like the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers are playing average basketball.
Here is our current list of who’s hot in the Eastern Conference and who’s not.
Photo source: Instagram
Atlanta Hawks (26-8, No.1 in Eastern Conference, 3rd overall)
The Hawks have won five in a row, 10 of 11 and 19 of 21. During their most recent hot streak, the Hawks have posted road victories over the L.A. Clippers, Portland, Dallas, Houston, Cleveland and Miami.
The Hawks don’t exactly have a who’s who of scoring talent with their top five scorers being Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, Al Horford, Kyle Korver and DeMarre Carroll but they are definitely the best in the Eastern Conference to this point in the season.
Chicago Bulls (25-10, No. 2 in Eastern Conference, 6th overall)
The Bulls have played very well in recent weeks winning 10 of 11 and 13 of 15. Fans are especially excited that Derrick Rose has played in 25 of the Bulls’ first 35 games this season and although he has struggled at times, he is still third on the team in scoring at 17.2 points per game.
The biggest surprise for the Bulls thus far this season has to be the play of veteran Paul Gasol who came over from the Lakers. Gasol is averaging a double-double in points and rebounds (18.3 ppg, 11.3 rpg). Jimmy Butler leads the team in scoring at 21.9 ppg which is very refreshing for a team that has had a hard time putting the ball in the basket over the past couple of seasons. In fact, the Bulls are seventh in the league in points per game at 103.1.
Indiana Pacers (14-22, No. 9 in Eastern Conference)
My how the mighty have fallen. It was just a year ago that the Pacers were the hottest team in the league at this point in the season. Their goal a season ago was to earn home-field advantage in the playoffs over the Miami Heat. Now their goal this season is to actually make the playoffs and the fact that the Pacers sit 9th in the standings in the weak Eastern Conference, it shows exactly how much difference a year can make.
The Pacers are No. 1 in the league in points allowed per game at 96.1 so the defense is solid. The problem the Pacers have is scoring. They score 94.9 points per game, 26th in the league. They do have a balanced scoring team with nine players averaging at least 10 points per game but their leading scorer, C.J. Miles, is only averaging 12.2 points per game.
Cleveland Cavaliers (19-16, No. 5 in Eastern Conference)
Things aren’t going quite as smoothly in Cleveland as fans imagined. When the roster was being assembled over the summer, Cavs fans drooled over the thought of their new ‘Big 3’ of LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.
Well here we are in early January and James is out for at least a couple of weeks. The Cavs have lost six of eight including losses to both Philadelphia and Detroit. Ouch.
A healthy James is doing his part averaging 25.2 ppg while Irving and Love are averaging 20.4 and 17.8 respectively. The problem for the Cavs this season is on the defensive side of the ball where they are giving up 99.3 ppg (15th in the NBA) and are only 23rd overall in rebounding. And with the season ending injury to Anderson Varejao, the defense will get worse.