The East is open this year as the landscape has changed incredibly – and with respect to the Bucks, who have been great all season, the Pacers have been a wild surprise, especially with their touch for hitting from the perimeter. When the Sixers are playing good, they are better than almost anyone, and yet their defense remains a concern – as it is an ongoing problem. And as good as the Celtics can look, they’re also dysfunctional enough to make you wonder whether this season ends with them as a 6th seed and a 1st round playoff bounce.
So looking at the East, there are a few teams that standout….lets take a look.
We have the Indiana Pacers. They have some decent scoring strength, and excellent 3pt shooting, but they also have some poor offensive rebounding work on the glass, landing at just 27th in the league. Their game speed is lousy, as their overall rebounding has been bad. they do not get a ton of 2nd chance buckets.
Given the now improving East competition, the Pacers are one of the better teams we’ve seen play in the conference even with the injuries they have dealt with. And if the Pacers were just squeaking by, it would be right to question their accomplishments to this point, but they have been handling teams, by putting up points, and shutting teams down. A 5 year vet, Malcolm Brogdon – he has produced a player efficiency rating of 22.0 which is almost 6 pts higher than his career average.
And their 2nd main option, Myles Turner, can focus on playing alongside the team’s best shooter. The rest of their roster is playing well enough – and in the current league climate, a core of 2-3 stars is generally all a team really needs. The Indiana Pacers are a force – with Turner clogging up the middle, getting 2.8 blocks/game and their best def rating on the team with players with over 1500 minutes played. Domantas Sabonis is also expected to provide some scoring and give them a PF that can stretch the court, and immediately upgrades the team’s defense and offense, as well.
Philadelphia 76ers: Philadelphia has good scoring, and excellent aggressiveness with their core of guys, and their on court ball movement has been outstanding. The 76ers are playing at a similar level to last year’s team, but better. Their team shows some improvement with scoring – but their defense has dropped some. Philly are 5th in the league in offensive efficiency at around 115ppg. That number is up from last season’s 110ppg, that ranked 7th in the league. The team offense is better this year. The 76ers defensive efficiency has them giving up 112/game compared to just 105/game last season and they’re ranked in the middle of the league.
Ben Simmons is averaging 17 points and 8 assists per game and has been owning the games pacing, Philadelphia have some real problems for teams to deal with in the backcourt. While their defense does not appear to be as good as last year’s ways – Philadelphia seem much more ready to make the jump this year, than last, and the 76ers are going to be tough to handle come playoff time.
Toronto Raptors: The Toronto Raptors have shown a strong defense, especially in the paint, with Pascal Siakam. But their inconsistent 3pt shooting is tough to come back from, and they have bad game pacing. Toronto have some notable areas of concern such as turnovers, with 3 guys who turn it over around 2/game, and they have a lackadaisical jump to the glass – that gives up too many boards. Along with a drive that still needs to come together, I expected more, I guess. The Raptors don’t look much better than they did last season and Fred Van Fleet will need to step up his game this year.
Despite connecting with middling success with their deep ball shots at just 35% – and turning it over a bit too much, at 14/game. Toronto has shown that they are still capable to win plenty of games. Siakam is getting his game together in the NBA, and while he has been very good with 16ppg and 7rpg – both up from last years totals. His 54% shooting doesn’t come as a huge surprise as he attacks the rim and lane so frequently. However, the young PF does have the tendency to get himself into some sticky situations and can get out of control at times, and that needs to be coached.
Brooklyn Nets: Yeah, they have the big 3 but none of them like to play defense and Kyrie has been a head case the past few years. Will Harden and Durant step it up in the playoffs? They have been a disappointment so far in this 2020-21 season overall. However they have the offensive ability to match points with any team in the league but the playoffs are all about defense and can Steve Nash make them buy in?
At the end, the Sixers are the biggest problem for Milwaukee to try and handle. Joel Embiid, whether you like him or hate him – is one of the best players in the East, and he is the big thing, for Philly. Embiid’s jumper is becoming more money every day, and the Philly backcourt will likely will take them places with great leadership and impressive vision, as Embiid forces teams to acknowledge his presence, which opens things up for everybody else on the court.
Philly are the only ones who haven’t been hit with a lot of injuries or forced to play with a different lineup that what they thought was going to be on the court, they’re playing great, with their scoring ability and aggressiveness. And they have the advantage of health. The backcourt of Philly has been deeper with Tobias Harris and Seth Curry. If Philly cannot cut down on the getting into the shootouts thought, it won’t matter how well they play on offense because, eventually, allowing teams open looks comes back to haunt any team on the court.
It will be interesting, to say the least come NBA Playoff time.