This is a bizarre season for the NBA at a bizarre time for the world.
Most of those who have to attend the All-Star game in Atlanta don’t seem particularly excited about these plans. Arenas across the country are somewhere between almost empty and completely empty due to the coronavirus protocol. The schedule of games is usually known months in advance; no one still knows what the second week of March looks like.
All this is the most unusual.
There is, however, one constant: the order of the Eastern Conference is a mess.
Spending any time trying to figure out how the East will shake off would be a futile endeavor, as it is clear that the teams themselves have no idea. Miami won the East last season and this season spent zero days over .500. Milwaukee – the best NBA team in the regular season in each of the past two seasons, a team that has twice ruled the MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo – they just had a series of five consecutive defeats. Each East team had at least one run of three defeats; 11 of those 15 teams had more slides for three games, and the season isn’t even half over.
If all that wasn’t enough, the Western Conference dominates its friends from the second half of the league. The West wins in 57% of its matches against the East. This will be the largest margin since the West in 2014-15. He won 58.4% – and almost ensures that the West will win in the regular season over the East for the 21st time in the last 22 seasons. The East won four consecutive years against the West from 1995-96 to 1998-99; the only season in which the East beat the West from 2008 to 2009.
So far this has been to be expected.
Having only three teams better than one game above .500, two months in a season, is a big surprise from the East. Philadelphia (20-11) and Brooklyn (20-12) sit at the top of the East, and Milwaukee (18-13) is right in their shadow.
Some offer a very simple explanation.
“I see a lot of inconsistent teams in the East,” The heat said coach Eric Spoelstra. “And we’re one of them.”
Given that, there are signs that some teams are figuring it out.
Brooklyn just went 5-0 on a trip west, playing most of those games without Kevin Durant. Toronto started 7-12; the Raptors are 9-3 from. The Bulls and the Heat have already won more games in February than in January. The Wizards defeated the reigning champion Los Angeles lakers on Monday night for the fifth straight win, meaning they are 5-0 from the start 6-17. I Knicks – this is true and amazing – they have a chance for their first winning calendar month from November 8 to 7, 2017.
“We are striving to become a 48-minute team,” said Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, who already had a significant impact in the first few months of his stay in New York. “We have a long way to go.”
The good news is that there is still a lot of time left.
Teams will schedule the second half to finalize the NBA this week. Everyone, even those going to Atlanta for the one-day All-Star events on March 7, will get a little-needed break after a very hectic first few months until the season. The deadline for trading on March 25 will be interesting, because with this year’s tournament – and 20 teams basically going into the postseason, even if four are eliminated in a very short order – there will be more teams than usual technically in the playoffs.
Simply put, it is a long way. And that means that there is enough time for this Eastern log cabin to break down a bit.
“Anyone who can find a certain consistency and reliability faster can find some separation on the scale, but there isn’t one at the moment,” Spoelstra said. “So what I see is an opportunity.”