Sorting out good, bad in NBA Eastern Conference

Updated 11/17/2013 6:49 PM
  • Pacers forward Paul George is defended by Bulls guard Jimmy Butler, middle, and center Joakim Noah during Saturday's Bulls victory. It would benefit either of these teams to get the No. 1 seed in the East.

    Pacers forward Paul George is defended by Bulls guard Jimmy Butler, middle, and center Joakim Noah during Saturday's Bulls victory. It would benefit either of these teams to get the No. 1 seed in the East. Associated Press

It has been a strange start to the NBA season, especially in the Eastern Conference, where Indiana jumped out to a 9-0 start while everyone else floundered.

So let's sort out this mess in the East right now by asking one simple question: Are they good?

Indiana: An argument could be made that the Pacers' 9-0 start was the product of a soft schedule.

There are plenty of good signs here, though, with Paul George, Roy Hibbert and Lance Stephenson playing well. The questions are whether George Hill can be a championship-caliber point guard and how Danny Granger blends in if he ever gets healthy.

Are they good? Yes.

Miami: Those 3 early losses aren't really a big deal. This season is about surviving the ultramarathon that would come with reaching the Finals for the fourth straight season.

Are they good? Obviously.

Bulls: Saturday's big win over Indiana was what the Bulls were expecting this season with a healthy Derrick Rose and elite defensive lineup.

One thing that's already obvious is it would be a huge benefit for the Bulls or the Pacers to get the No. 1 seed. That would mean playing the No. 4 or 5 in the second round while, most likely, someone else has to deal with the Heat.

Are they good? When healthy.

Philadelphia: The Sixers probably don't have the depth or experience to continue their fast start. But they might be onto something with a fast lineup of Evan Turner, Michael Carter-Williams, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young.

Are they good? Maybe next year.

Atlanta: Jeff Teague (19.4 points, 9.4 assists) is playing well, Al Horford is still doing what he does, Paul Millsap brought his steady play from Utah, Kyle Korver is shooting 50 percent from 3-point range, and Lou Williams is back from ACL surgery.

Are they good? Should be a playoff team.

Charlotte: The next 18-game losing streak might be just around the corner, but the Bobcats are showing some good signs under new coach Steve Clifford.

They rank fourth in the league in points allowed and already have won three road games. The Bulls get Charlotte's first-round pick next year if it's not in the top 10.

Are they good? Probably not.

Orlando: The Magic has been tough at home, with wins over the Clippers and Nets. Arron Afflalo and Nikola Vucevic are playing like all-stars, but Orlando should stay committed to a high draft pick.

Are they good? At home, maybe.

Detroit: The Pistons have played a tough schedule and have some challenging chemistry issues with Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith coming on board. It's a talented lineup, in theory.

Are they good? Jury is out.

Toronto: Eventually, the Raptors need to trade either Rudy Gay or DeMar DeRozan. Gay's $18 million salary is as big an albatross as everyone thought it would be when he signed it.

Are they good? Not really.

Boston: The Celtics' four-game winning streak had people wondering if coach Brad Stevens is truly a miracle worker. But this team is built to fail.

Are they good? Not even with Rajon Rondo.

Cleveland: Since drafting Kyrie Irving No. 1, the Cavs have made some questionable draft choices. And Andrew Bynum, who is pretty good but doesn't play a lot, makes for an odd fit.

Are they good? No, too many wrong pieces.

New York: It seems absurd that the Knicks can be 3-6 overall with 5 straight home losses. Don't forget, Tyson Chandler meant everything to their defense and he's out with a broken leg. Adding Andrea Bargnani is all management's fault.

Are they good? Maybe later this season.

Brooklyn: Deron Williams is hurt, and Kevin Garnett barely plays. A Joe Johnson floater at the buzzer in Phoenix is all that kept the Nets from a 2-7 start. Could a team with a $180 million payroll/tax bill actually miss the playoffs?

Are they good? Not right now.

Washington: The Wizards have played some tough road games, so no need to call them a bust yet. The defense has been bad, which doesn't bode well for coach Randy Wittman.

Are they good? Wait for the coaching change.

Milwaukee: The ceiling for this roster probably is 30 wins, so why bother? Suds City works well as Tank City. Go for it, Bucks.

Are they good? Absolutely not.

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