NBA Eastern Conference Trends & Standings

Jason Lake

Thursday, January 16, 2014 12:27 PM UTC

Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014 12:27 PM UTC

We’re just about halfway through the 2013-14 NBA betting season. Which teams have filled our pockets, and which ones have left us hanging?

Jason’s record on his early NBA picks for 2013-14, up to January 16 inclusive:

43-34-1 ATS

12-10 Totals

Believe it or not, the 2013-14 NBA regular season has just about reached its midpoint. So much has happened in these last few months. We’ve had some surprises along the way, but for the most part, it’s been business as usual – especially in the Eastern Conference, where we were expecting a whole lot of bad basketball this year. Let’s take a moment to look back and see which teams have been living above or below their class lines thus far.

Upper class: Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks, Chicago Bulls, Brooklyn Nets

The biggest surprise in the East this year has been with the Big Apple teams and their failure to launch. Injuries and some dubious coaching have left both the Knicks (15-23 SU, 16-22 ATS) and the Nets (15-22 SU, 17-20 ATS) in the red, although business has been picking up lately now that most of those injured players have made their way back into their respective lineups.

The Heat (27-11 SU, 16-22 ATS) have also hit the skids recently, dropping the cash in nine of their past 12 games and making my most recent pick look very silly indeed. But they’ve been a reliable moneymaker this year, doing very well early on with Michael Beasley getting off to a hot start, then becoming an easy fade (on most occasions) as they coast toward the playoffs. Indiana (30-7 SU, 25-12 ATS) is once again kicking all kinds of ass, but Chicago (18-19 SU, 16-21 ATS) not so much without Derrick Rose.

Middle class: Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers, Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors

This is the group that was caught in that no man’s land between going for the playoffs and tanking for a high lottery pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. And that’s where they remain today, although the Raptors (19-18 SU, 22-15 ATS) have taken a major step forward, going 13-6 SU and 15-4 ATS since Rudy Gay was pulled from the lineup and sent packing to Sacramento.

Things have gone reasonably well for the Hawks (20-18 SU, 21-17 ATS) and the Wizards (18-19 SU, 21-16 ATS), although Atlanta’s season could be in jeopardy with the loss of center Al Horford for the rest of season. The seas have been rougher for the Pistons (16-22 SU, 16-21-1 ATS), who have gotten substandard play from Josh Smith (14.9 PER). But that’s a lot more than the Cavaliers (14-25 SU, 17-22 ATS) have gotten out of No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett (1.1 PER). They’re hoping the Luol Deng trade will push them back into firm playoff position.

Lower class: Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Charlotte Bobcats, Orlando Magic, Philadelphia 76ers

We figured these five teams would be Riggin’ for Wiggins, although there are so many quality players in the next draft, any of them could wind up being Sorry for Jabari, or pursuing a Low Seed for Embiid. The Bucks (7-31 SU, 13-25 ATS) have done the best job by far of tanking this season, partly due to center Larry Sanders breaking his thumb in an ill-advised (and unintentionally hilarious) bar fight.

The Bobcats (16-24 SU, 21-17-2 ATS) have looked pretty good at times with the addition of center Al Jefferson, and the Celtics (14-26 SU, 20-19-1 ATS) have fought gamely under first-year head coach Brad Stevens. It might take some chicanery to keep Boston out of the playoffs now that Rajon Rondo is just about ready to make his season debut –there’s a few teams in the Western Conference that could use his services. But these Feckless Five are still the most likely candidates from the East to play their way into the draft lottery. Like that billboard in Milwaukee says, winning takes balls.

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