By Josh Cohen
November 13, 2012

In Cohen Courtside, Josh Cohen examines the state of the Orlando Magic after games this season. He will tackle sidebar storylines and focus on topics that stretch far beyond the box score. There will also be some analysis on league-wide subjects.

ORLANDO -- The Eastern Conference is complicated.

It’s complex because it’s so unbalanced.

You have the seemingly unconquerable team down south with the Miami Heat.

You have the proven and qualified team from all the way up the coast with the Boston Celtics.

You have teams like the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets, which are loaded with talent but haven’t been tested or provoked yet.

You have the injury-plagued teams like the Chicago Bulls (Derrick Rose), Indiana Pacers (Danny Granger) and Philadelphia 76ers (Andrew Bynum) that when healthy should be competitive playoff teams.

And then, you have an assortment of renovation, rebuilding and restructuring.

Presently, you can only guarantee four teams from the East to be automatic playoff berths: Miami, Boston, New York and Brooklyn.

After that, it’s a wild card for the final four spots.

It's a complete opposite out West where you legitimately have 10-12 teams that are good enough to be playoff worthy.

It’s frustrating for any of those East teams in remodel mode because competing against clubs that have LeBron/Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Rondo/Pierce/Garnett and D-Will/Joe Johnson is an absolute nightmare.

All four of those elite teams spent a slew of money to organize championship contenders.

Eventually, teams like the Orlando Magic hope to restore that same mold.

As long as they don’t lose confidence, the Magic could very well be a playoff team this season considering more than half of the conference is in fluctuation.

Remember, four of Orlando’s losses are against teams that are far more experienced and significantly more established than the Magic.

Aside from Anthony, the Knicks torture you with years and years of excellence when you refer to guys like Jason Kidd, Rasheed Wallace and Tyson Chandler.

It will be much more explanatory of what Orlando is capable of this season when it clashes with other rebuilding teams like Charlotte, Detroit, Cleveland, Toronto and Washington. And with their respective injury problems, Indiana and Philadelphia are certainly beatable.

It’s going to be a back-and-forth debate all season long: Is it more advantageous for the Magic to miss the playoffs and land lottery luck by attaining a high draft pick or sneak into the postseason as a No. 7 or 8 seed?

That’s personal preference and philosophy.

Everything becomes intricate because if there were 12 very good teams in the East and just four rebuilding franchises, for example, those four can focus exclusively on scouting for the draft.

On the other hand, in its current state, there will almost certainly be one or two teams in the conference that are technically "rebuilding" but still manage to sneak into the playoffs.

But regardless of your position on that subject, grabbing a playoff spot in the East is not impractical by any stretch.

Right now in cities like Washington, Charlotte, Toronto, Cleveland and Detroit, fans there are contemplating the same thing. And if Bynum doesn’t return healthy and effective, supporters of the Sixers will be in the same state of mind. The same can perhaps be said of the Bulls and Pacers.

The Hawks and Bucks -- the two teams not mentioned yet -- need to prove they can sustain success before anyone labels them definite playoff teams.

Orlando’s next five games are against the Pistons (twice), Raptors, Hawks and Cavaliers.

Let’s reexamine the Magic once this stretch of games are complete. At that time, we may very well know what direction this team is headed in.

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