How Bad is the NBA Eastern Conference?
by Joseph Mattern - 12/28/2006
The Eastern Conference is, with very few exceptions, utterly pathetic. There is no question about it. Eight teams in the conference have records of .500 or below (including the entire Atlantic division), and most of the "good" teams in the East are mediocre at best. Some teams are better than their records suggest, but most are not.
Let's look at each division in the conference.
Atlantic Division - Horrible division. No team in this group has a .500 record. Toronto is leading the division, so that should say something about how bad the Atlantic is. Philly without Iverson is worthless; Boston is hopeless, New Jersey looks bored and the Knicks are pitiful.
Central Division - Here you'll find the cream of the crop in the Eastern Conference. There are several nice playoff-bound teams here. Detroit continues their winning ways, and LeBron will buoy the Cavs.
However, the most intriguing team here might be Chicago, who, with Ben Wallace, Luol Deng, Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon, is looking to build on last year's impressive playoff showing. Deng, in particular, is having a breakout year. This team is as solid as it gets in the East and there may be some value to be found betting lines underestimating them although oddsmakers seem to have adjusted already.
Another interesting team is Milwaukee, currently last in the Central. NBA insider Andrew Golding says of the Bucks, "Milwaukee is good - they play a ton of games at home to end the season - 17 of the last 24 at home-- bet on these guys. Terry Stotts has them playing hard every night." Keep an eye on these guys.
Southeast Division - There are two good teams to be found here and the defending champs are not one of them. Washington and Orlando are good squads and should remain at the top of this division throughout.
Pay particular attention to Washington at home. Says Golding, "There's value when Washington plays at home vs. anyone. And when East teams play a Western Conference team coming off a back-to-back." Gilbert Arenas, averaging 40 points per game over the last five games, is dropping tons of points on everybody for the Wizards, and he has developed into one of the league's elite scorers, someone who can drop a 40 on any team in the league and literally will his team to victory.
Orlando has the young phenom Dwight Howard, who has been going great so far this year. I like both of these teams to be there at the end of the season, and both are capable of doing damage in the playoffs. Miami, Atlanta and Charlotte bring up the rear in this division. Golding says, "Miami is old and terrible. Antoine Walker is a $50 million man who'd be getting DNP CDs without that contract. Shaq is ancient. The rest of the East, sans Orlando, is just bad. Bad because of roster. No injuries needed."
In the West, there are some real powerhouse teams, some pretty good teams, and a couple of junkers. In the East though, there are a few decent teams, and lot of crappy ones. Will a real force emerge in the East? Only time will tell. Stick with the Eastern teams that play well at home, and look for value especially in the Central Division. Look at teams like Chicago, Cleveland, Milwaukee and also Washington and Orlando - this is where you might find some value, particularly when these teams play average Western Conference teams and are getting an inordinate amount of points due to an inflated line.