As the second half of the NBA season kicks into gear, it’s time to take a look back at the first half. Here’s a look at each division and which teams have excelled, defied expectations and disappointed in the East:
Boston Celtics (44-11): The defending champions picked up where they left off by setting a NBA record for the best start at 27-2. They had a small misstep in the New Year with a string of losses but they’ve righted themselves and continue to lead the league. Their stellar defense has them poised for another championship run but they have to keep an eye out for the Lakers who’s victory over them last month gives them home court advantage in the Finals.
Philadelphia 76ers (27-25): The Sixers season started out slow after last year’s playoff surge with a 2-5 record. The young energetic team that everyone was expecting looked stagnant and seemed to have trouble inserting their free agent pickup Elton Brand. In the last month after a coaching change and Brand’s season ending shoulder injury the team is once again in the playoff hunt.
New Jersey Nets (24-30): The Nets have continued to struggle to stay afloat in their division. They’ve got good bench production but the team does not seem to have a plan. Star Vince Carter’s play is erratic at best. If the team can find a way to play consistently they still have a chance to make the playoffs.
New York Knicks (22-31): The Knicks finished the season with a six game losing streak. They have had a hard time closing out games. Their sloppy defense has usually been behind the losses so if they can find a way to control it they may finally be able to bring playoff basketball back to New York. With Lebron possibly heading their way next year some playoff experience would be nice.
Toronto Raptors (21-35): The Raptors have struggled to get above .500 this season but this weekend’s trade with Miami may be a step in the right direction. Jermaine O’Neal struggled to fit into the Raptors’ run and gun offense and should fit in better in Miami and Shawn Marion’s play should fit in well in Toronto.
Cleveland Cavaliers (41-11): Well after setting a franchise record for reaching the 40-win mark it is obvious that the Cavaliers and Lebron James have turned into one of the premier teams in the league. The team still needs to work on it’s defense but they have a amazing bench and Mo Williams is James’ perfect sidekick. It’ll be interesting to see if Cleveland can take the Celtics.
Detroit Pistons (27-26): After spending the last five years at the top of the Eastern Conference it seems that the Pistons may have finally run out of steam. After making the biggest and most controversial trade of the season, Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson, it seemed that the team was poised to make another championship run but team chemistry problems and injuries have plagued the team. New coach Michael Curry seems to be lost and has been playing musical chairs with his team’s lineup. The Pistons can still get themselves back in the playoff race but they have a lot of work to do.
Milwaukee Bucks (27-29): After trading Mo Williams the team has continued to take a downward slide. Richard Jefferson has been playing well but the Bucks are inconsistent at best. They have also been plagued by injuries. They may have a chance to sneak into the playoffs but until they find the consistency that they need they’ll continue to not get anywhere. With Andrew Bogut out for the season they did make a trade with Orlando and picked up shooting guard Keith Bogans which will help shore up the hole that Bogut left.
Chicago Bulls (23-30): A couple of years ago it looked like Chicago was finally moving in the right direction with a host of young talented players but once again the organization has taken a turn for the worse. The team struggles both offensively and defensively and struggle with closing out games. Today’s trade with Sacramento, Drew Gooden and Andres Nocioni for John Salmons and Brad Miller, may be a step in the right direction but it may be too little too late.
Indiana Pacers (22-34): The Pacer’s continue to struggle but despite being so far down in the standings they are the only team in the league to beat the Lakers, Cavaliers, Magic and Celtics. They have a good nucleus but struggle to beat the teams that they should. If they can find a way to stay in every game to the end they might have a chance at moving up in a struggling conference.
Orlando Magic (39-13): After struggling a bit in the start of the season Orlando quickly took control and has become one of the powerhouses in the East. Led by “Superman” Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson the Magic had their best start in franchise history. Unfortunately, Nelson, who was playing the best basketball of his career, was injured before the All-Star break. Orlando just made a trade sending Keith Bogans to Milwaukee and picked up point guard Tyronn Lue who should fit in well with Howard and will hopefully keep the team on it’s winning path.
Atlanta Hawks (31-22): With numerous injuries and a tough early schedule the Hawks have managed to have a successful first half of the season. The Hawks have a nice mix of veteran and young players but their lack of depth may hinder them in the playoffs.
Miami Heat (28-24): The Heat perhaps had the biggest trade during the All-Star break picking up Toronto star Jermaine O’Neal who should fit in well with Dwayne Wade. The Heat have struggled for a couple of seasons because of their lack of a center so O’Neal’s presence in the middle will be huge. The Heat have a tough schedule to end the season and will have to stay consistent in order to have a playoff run.
Charlotte Bobcats (22-32): After struggling all season, Charlotte began to put a fight just before the All-Star break but it is unlikely that they will be able to contend with the other teams in the East. With no real stars to turn to Coach Larry Brown has his work cut out for him.
Washington Wizards (12-42): What to say about Washington. Year after year their franchise player Gilbert Arenas gets injured and their playoff hopes go up in smoke. Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler are both great players but neither is a leader and that is what this team needs. It may be time to scrap the lineup and rebuild from the bottom up.