With the completion of the all-star break we are officially just over half way through this shortened 2011/12 NBA season. The majority of the players and coaches got a short break after a rather hectic two month schedule. Here are the current rankings of the teams in playoff positions and those still in with a chance, as well as predictions for the end of season for the Eastern Conference.
Eastern Conference Year In Review
Chicago Bulls (32-8, 1st in East) A good effort for a team that has had its fair share of injuries. Derrick Rose, Loul Deng and RIP Hamilton have all missed games but they have still managed to win the majority of games and currently lead the East. Look for a close battle for top spot between them and the Heat. If everyone is ready to go a championship is there for the taking, Hamilton gives them another scoring option, he just needs to get on the court. Need home court if it comes down to Eastern Conference finals against the Heat.
Prediction: Freakish Rose will push hard but injuries a concern and Heat will get going in 2nd half. 2nd spot in the East.
Miami Heat (28-9, 2nd in East) Huge chance to take out top spot in the East, will be waiting if Bulls falter. Still questions on LeBron finishing games as was the case against Utah after the all-star break. Wade yet to fully get going after ankle problems but LeBron has been in MVP form and putting up some amazing all round numbers. Look to have a better bench unit this year and the drive is definitely there after last year’s loss to Dallas.
Prediction: Will push for no. 1 spot in East and get it by season end and then lookout for redemption come playoff time.
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="218" caption="Dwight Howard's season has been dogged by trade speculation."]
Orlando Magic (25-14, 3rd in East) Will they? Won’t they? Anyone sick of the Dwight trade rumours yet? Dwight continues to stuff the stat sheet each game (20 points/15 rebounds per game) but it is his support cast that provides inconsistent play. Ryan Anderson has been a revelation but Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson and Glen Davis have been very unreliable at times. Playoff picture will be decided if Orlando trade Dwight in the next couple of weeks before the deadline. Watch this space.
Prediction: Trade Dwight and fall, fall, fall.
Indiana Pacers (23-13, 4th in East) Have plenty of ability, consistency is the key as have had plenty of ups and downs so far this season as can be seen with a recent 6 game winning streak. Danny Granger's form early was a worry but this team has plenty of youth and ability to push most teams. The coveted 3rd spot in the East has been hard to hang onto but the Pacers do look the most likely.
Prediction: Pacers to finish 3rd in the east but not yet up to the top 2.
Philadelphia 76ers (22-17, 5th in East) After a great start to the year the 76ers have faltered, they still hang onto 4th spot in the East but Evan Turner is struggling, losing Spencer Hawes to injury and the ageing Elton Brand has brought them back to the pack. Only won 3 of last 10 and poor home record doesn't help. Could slide, but around them Orlando and Atlanta aren't that promising. May open up spots for Boston and New York?
Prediction: Move over Philli, the Knicks and Celtics are coming. May slide to 8th spot!
Atlanta Hawks(22-15, 6th in East) Atlanta were hurt with the chest injury to Al Horford but continue to be competitive in games they just shouldn't be. Josh Smith continues to put up good numbers with a support cast that includes Joe Johnson, Jeff Teague and Marvin Williams. Offensive of 93 points per game is a worry but defensively they rank well.
Prediction: Tired legs by seasons end may be their undoing. Will stay around 6th - 7th in the East.
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="229" caption="Rajon Rondo has been hot of late."]
Boston Celtics (19-17, 7th in East) Is there some life in the old legs yet? Two recent triple-doubles from Rajon Rondo, two big games from Paul Pierce, and three straight double-doubles with 18-plus points from Kevin Garnett! Add in the ever stingy Celtics defense and things are looking up. Rondo now the general of this team if he can stay fit he may help the Celtics push for top 4 spot in the East.
Prediction: Will be dictated by injuries but if bodies hold up for their big four then 4th spot is for the taking.
New York Knicks(18-19, 8th in East) The Knicks list is starting to look deep, JR Smith was a good acquisition and Baron Davis will get fitter and everyone by now knows the Jeremy Lin story. The five games since Carmelo Anthony returned have been a mixed bag on both ends which is a worry but he still has the x-factor that can provide wins Good vibe in New York at the moment and if Amare Stoudemire can get going offensively then anything is possible.
Prediction: Can still see Knicks move up a little, will come down to how well the offence gels. Maybe 6th?
There are a few other teams in the mix for a playoff spot, next best is Milwaukee Bucks (15-23) but they have been terrible in past 10 games (2-8) and without Andrew Bogut hard to see them winning many more games. Surely someone has to be accountable for picking up Stephen Jackson! Cleveland Cavaliers (13-23) showed some life at the start of the year but they have been hurt by the injury to Aderson Varejao, highlight has been Kyrie Irvings form as well as Antawn Jamison’s numbers. No playoff chance for me. Next up are Detroit Pistons (12-26) and well we are starting to get to a bad batch now if we have to mention the Pistons in this playoff group. Pass for me.
Lin-Mania. Everyone has loved the Jeremy Lin story, none more so than the New York people. Knicks fans have been crying out for success at Madison Square Garden and at least Lin has given them something to cheer for. Lets hope he can continue his form in the second half of the season.
LeBron James' focus and drive. LeBron copped his fair share of criticism after last years NBA Finals some deserving but some harshly for a man who had a great season. This year he has played like a man possessed and looks to take Miami all the way. So far he has put up MVP like numbers - 27.8 points, 6.8 assists and 8.4 rebounds per game.