By Brandon Easler
1. Toronto Raptors
The Toronto Raptors have quietly made their way to the number 1 seed in the East, but still no one is talking about them. People are still focusing on the Celtics or Cavs, which is in part due to the interesting narrative that a Kyrie vs. LeBron East Finals would be. However, Toronto does not care what anyone thinks, as they just continue to rattle off wins. They are 31-8 against the East and have won 27 out of 32 home games this year. The Raptors have the fourth best offensive rating and third best defensive rating and are being led by DeMar DeRozan who is having one of the best years of his career. However, the Raptors have not been able to get past the Eastern Semis or Eastern Finals for the past four years, so they will have to prove themselves in the playoffs this year or they might have to blow the core of the team up.
2. Portland Trailblazers
The Trailblazers are currently sitting at third in the West, even though that could change a lot over the next few weeks before the playoffs due to the competitive nature of the West. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are both averaging over 20 points per game, but beyond that the offensive production falls off a little bit. They have the thirteenth best offense and sixth best defense, and this is probably due to them investing more in defensive stoppers such as Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless. This team has one eight games in a row (including one over the Warriors) and seems primed for a playoff run. However, seeing the Rockets or Warriors in the second round will be a tough matchup for any team.
3. Indiana Pacers
Most people considered the Pacers to be done after the PG13 trade. However, Victor Oladipo has exploded this year for easily his best year as a pro. He is averaging 23.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG, and 4.3 APG, which are all career highs. Myles Turner has not taken the next step in his progression as many people thought, but that could be due to the concussion early in the year that caused him to miss some games. The Pacers are currently tied for fourth in the East, and should be getting Darren Collison back soon from injury, which will help this team overall. They likely will not make a deep run in the playoffs this year, but with a big free agent signing in the offseason this team could make a real run at the top of the East next season.
All stats courtesy of basketball-reference.com.
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