Just about 20% into the NBA season, the Eastern Conference is beginning to take shape. The three most popular teams to win the Eastern Conference at the beginning of the season, are all set to be among the exclusive group fighting for the number one seed. Those three teams are the Toronto Raptors, Philadelphia 76ers, and the Boston Celtics. However, those three teams are not the only teams in the exclusive group. The Milwaukee Bucks, who are 11-4, appear to be a force to be reckoned with in the Eastern Conference. On top of having the second-best record in the East thus far, behind Toronto, the top teams in the East haven’t been spectacular so far this year.
Philadelphia has been less than stellar on the road this season. The 76ers started 0-5 away from the city of brotherly love to start the year, before rattling off wins in 3 of their last 5 road contests. The addition of Jimmy Butler could help the 76ers play better on the road as he hit a game winning three in overtime in Charlotte the other night. Philadelphia’s play at home (8-0) is keeping them around the top spots as they figure out how to play well on the road. I expect Jimmy Butler to help this young team down the stretch of close games, and think they will begin to play better on the road. They are currently the four seed at 11-7.
Boston has been underwhelming to say the least. Their offense ranks fourth worst in points per game throughout the Eastern Conference, which is surprising given the offensive talent that they have. With Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Al Horford all on the same roster, many would think that their offense would be lethal. Boston, at just 9-7 after their first 16 game, relies on their defense to carry them to victories. Luckily, Boston has the third best defense in the NBA when it comes to points allowed per game. The Celtics have too many threats on offense for their woes to continue much longer, but droughts of no points could prove costly come playoff time. There’s definitely reason for concern for Celtics fans.
The most consistent team in the Eastern Conference after the first month of basketball is the Toronto Raptors. The Raptors currently hold the top seed in the East with a 13-4 record. Toronto has a top 10 offense to go along with their top 10 defense, and are playing extremely well with newly acquired Kawhi Leonard. I thought it would take a few weeks before Kawhi and the rest of the Raptors would gel nicely together, but the Raptors started 6-0 before they lost in Milwaukee without Kawhi playing against the Bucks. The Raptors with Kawhi, alongside Kyle Lowry, are in my opinion, and many others, the favorite to be atop the Eastern Conference at the end of the regular season.
Check out my article on why the Bucks could win the Eastern Conference to see why they will be a top three seed in the Eastern Conference come April. Link: https://www.isportsweb.com/2018/10/25/the-milwaukee-bucks-can-win-the-eastern-conference/
The Raptors should be the favorite in the Eastern Conference, but the next three seeds are up for grabs between four teams. The Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics got the notoriety during the preseason as the teams that would be alongside Toronto as having the top three seeds in the Eastern Conference, but Milwaukee and even Indiana have played well so far this year and could snag one or two of those spots. Toronto should continue to be atop the Conference for the majority of the season followed by Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Boston in that order. Although Indiana is off to a 10-6 start, I expect them to be the odd man out when it comes to the top four seeds in the Eastern Conference. Indiana will finish fifth and be a tough out for Boston in the first round of the playoffs.