By Brandon Easler
The East has only had a couple of constants this year, as the Raptors have been first for almost the whole year and the Celtics have settled into second. However, everything after that has been up in the air as seeds 3-5 are separated by one game and seeds 6-8 are separated by one game. With roughly five to six games left for each team seeds 3-8 could change a lot in the next couple weeks…
3. Cleveland Cavaliers (current 3 seed, 5 games left)
The Cavs are not playing their best basketball right now, but they still have the best player in the world in LeBron. The Cavs are 8-2 in their last 10 games, and still have some defensive issues to take care of (29th in defensive rating). They still have not played with their complete team healthy, as George Hill and Kyle Korver have been the latest players to miss a few games. Once this team puts it together in the playoffs they will be a daunting matchup for any team.
4. Philadelphia 76ers (0.5 GB from 3, 6 games left)
The 76ers have had a very good year, as “The Process” seems to be near completion. They just got Markelle Fultz back from injury, which is big because he gives them more guard depth. However, Joel Embiid had to have eye surgery recently and will likely miss 1-2 weeks. The Sixers have a big game coming up against the Cavs on Friday, and that game could decide who gets the three seed between the two. Look for the Sixers to make some noise in the playoffs.
5. Indiana Pacers (1 GB from 3, 5 games left)
The Pacers will probably end up as the five seed just based on their tough remaining schedule. They play the Nuggets, Warriors, and Raptors before ending the season with two easier matchups against the Hornets. The Pacers have been playing well as of late though, as they have won five in a row and are 7-3 in their last ten games. They have likely locked in at least the five seed as the Wizards (currently in sixth) are 4 GB.
6. Washington Wizards (current 6 seed, 5 games left)
The Wizards are getting healthy at just the right time, as John Wall just returned from injury which cost him a little over two months of the season. The team had better ball movement while Wall was out, which was emphasized by their “Everybody Eats” motto. However, the Wizards are still a better team with Wall because of the all-around game he brings to the table. If the Wizards do end up as the six seed, they will be a big problem for the three seed and could push the series to six or seven games.
7. Milwaukee Bucks (1 GB from 6, 5 games left)
The Bucks are a good but not great team. They are still very young, as all but two of their players are younger than 30 years old. Giannis is a budding star at only 23 years of age, but this team will most likely have a better shot to make a splash in the playoffs in the next few seasons to come. They most likely will not present a major challenge to either the Celtics or Raptors and will most likely get swept or go out in 5 games.
8. Miami Heat (1 GB from 6, 5 games left)
Last but not least, we have the Miami Heat. The Heat are not a good offensive team (20th in offensive rating) but a top ten defensive team (6th in defensive rating). Hassan Whiteside has recently expressed his thoughts about not receiving minutes late in games, which shows a rift in the team. It is hard to evaluate what the Heat really are as a team, but what is important is that they will most likely not present a big challenge in the first round unless they win a very ugly defensive game, which they have shown capable of doing this season.
All stats courtesy of basketball-reference.com.
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