Blogtable: Which teams in lower half of Eastern Conference will make playoffs?
Each week, we ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.
* * *
The Pacers, Bulls, Wizards, Knicks, Pistons and Magic are all at or under .500, yet are also all in the East playoff chase. Which two teams from this group do you think will be playoff-bound and why?
* * *
David Aldridge: Since I picked the Pacers to make the Eastern finals, I guess I have to stick with them. As for a second, my guess is it comes down to Washington and Detroit, the two remaining teams that I think have the best combination/potential to both score and defend at a playoff level. I’ll pick Washington for now, but with not much conviction.
Steve Aschburner: Give me the Pacers and the Wizards. Indiana has two guys who need to reach the postseason for different reasons – young big Myles Turner to continue his development and Paul George, a potential MVP one of these years who should never again go home in April. That tandem, with the Pacers’ other scorers, should be potent enough to qualify. I picked Washington to win the Southeast Division so I have to presume they’re playoff-worthy (based more on how they closed December than started January). The backcourt of John Wall and Bradley Beal, for all its past drama, is elite and coach Scott Brooks knows how to finish strong. I’m kind of aghast at Detroit’s slip-slidin’ after its first-round experience against the Cavs, but the Pistons haven’t found that elixir from last spring.
Fran Blinebury: Call me foolish for having the same expectations disappointed year after year and still thinking we’ll get a different result. But I believe John Wall and Bradley Beal just have too much going for them as a high-powered backcourt not to get the Wizards into the playoffs. The Wiz are also getting Otto Porter’s best NBA effort yet and Marcin Gortat and Markieff Morris give them the most solid starting five of all those lower rung East contenders. For the other spot, frankly I’m tossing a coin between Indiana and Chicago and coming down on the side of the Pacers because the backcourt situation with the Bulls is unsettling and, well, I believe in Paul George.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Way, way early on that question. I’m not getting into breaking down schedules with 60 percent of the season remaining. But since we have to pick, I’ll go Wizards (the recovery from a bad start means a much better direction than the record indicates) and Knicks (that’s where the dart landed).
Shaun Powell: I’d say the Bulls and then go on a limb and say the Wizards. Washington has more upside than the others because Otto Porter is showing growth and Brad Beal is healthy. Chicago has the best player of the bunch in Jimmy Butler (slightly ahead of Paul George) and I suspect Dwyane Wade will be the difference-maker that gives Chicago the edge over the Pacers and Knicks. But this is a tangled field of flawed teams who can each make a case of making or missing the playoffs. Wouldn’t be surprised about whatever order they fall.
John Schuhmann: At first glance, the Pistons look like the best pick to play better over the next three months, because they’ve played the toughest schedule of the group thus far and have the point differential of a team that’s 18-19, not 16-21. But Detroit has been outscored by more than 10 points per 100 possessions (the worst mark in the league) over its last 10 games and is 3-6 against the other five teams in the group after recent losses to the Pacers (x 2), Wizards, and Bulls. The Magic are the safest pick among the group to miss the playoffs, because they’ve played a relatively easy schedule, have the worst point differential (that of a team that’s 12-24) among the six teams, and have been mostly healthy thus far. It should be between Chicago (the only team in the group that has outscored its opponents this season), Indiana (7-4 within the group) and Washington (the team that has played the best over the last few weeks). I’ll give the Wizards (easiest remaining schedule among the three) and Pacers (better shooting than the Bulls) the edge.
Sekou Smith: The Pacers and Wizards have the best roster makeup to handle the rigors of a playoff chase this season. They have All-Star talent, solid role players and a clear vision of who and what they are supposed to be (though that hasn’t translated into consistency thus far), when healthy. I’m willing to bet on guys like Paul George and Jeff Teague, John Wall and Bradley Beal. The Bulls and Knicks are certainly capable of being in the mix. But much like the Pistons and Magic, the inconsistency this season has been maddening.
Ian Thomsen: I like the Bulls and Pacers – in that order – because Dwyane Wade isn’t going to allow Chicago to miss the playoffs, and Paul George is too good to fall short. Based on their big changes in personnel and style, I’m looking for Indiana to be a second-half team. Another intriguing team second-half team is the Wizards, with coach Scott Brooks appearing to bring out the best in John Wall.
Lang Whitaker: I’ll go with the Knicks and the Pistons. Detroit because I think they’re still figuring things out—I mean, Stan Van Gundy just recently changed the starting lineup. Long-term they have too many quality pieces for this thing not to work, or at least not to result in a postseason berth. Which leaves us with the Knicks. This team isn’t built to win a title this season, or even really contend for a title over the next few seasons, at least as presently constructed. But with such a low bar for playoff admittance in the East, a team with Melo, Porzingis and Rose should be able to mess around make the postseason this season.
MORE BLOGTABLE: Will Warriors try for 73 wins again? | How would you handle Rondo situation?