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PBT Roundtable: Who’s third best in the East?

Nov 28, 2013, 11:45 PM EDT

Brooklyn Nets Deron Williams Paul Pierce Kevin Garnett Getty Images

Each week the PBT writers sit at a virtual roundtable and discuss the NBA topic of the day. This week’s question: 

The Heat and the Pacers have been the clear class of the Eastern Conference so far, but who is the third best team there right now? Who will be at the end of the season?

Kurt Helin: Right now I have to say the Hawks are the third best as they are actually over .500. Which separates them from everyone else. Pomona College’s own Mike Budenholzer has helped build a Top 10 defense and they have a solid offense with Jeff Teague having his best season ever at the point. By the end of the season…. I think one of the New York teams is going to figure it out and get good (not as good as Miami or Indiana, but better than they are now). I think the Nets are the more likely candidates because if they can get Deron Williams and more importantly Brook Lopez (their best player — at both ends oddly) back on the court things will improve dramatically. The Knicks could get going as well, but I still don’t love their roster construction. But one of them has to figure it out… right? Don’t they?

Dan Feldman: Now: Toronto Raptors. The Raptors lost to my runner-up, the Atlanta Hawks, but the Hawks don’t have any wins more impressive than that and have actually been outscored this season. The Raptors have challenged some good teams thanks to their deep assortment of mid-level talent, and I believe close losses can be telling. Yup, that’s the East right now. The third best team has the best losses.

End of season: Chicago Bulls. Even though Derrick Rose isn’t returning this season, Jimmy Butler will, and he’ll definitely help. The Bulls have a +9.8 net rating when he’s on the court. and -4.9 when he’s not. That’s swayed by his absence overlapping with Rose’s, but Butler is an emerging force. Plus, I just trust Tom Thibodeau to build a quality defense with this group. Without Rose last season, Chicago still won a playoff series in a tougher Eastern Conference.

Brett Pollakoff: Right now, nobody can stake a legitimate claim to third. Atlanta, Toronto, and Chicago all have their merits and are close enough record-wise, but the hottest team has been the Wizards thanks to multiple 30-point performances from John Wall that have them currently riding a three-game winning streak.

As Dan mentioned, Chicago seems to be the obvious choice long-term to claim this crown, based on their success a season ago without Derrick Rose in getting to the second round of the playoffs — and that’s before we count on the improved game of Jimmy Butler to compliment the likes of All-Star talents in Luol Deng and Joakim Noah.

But because the conference is so mediocre overall, I’ll go with the Nets. Look, all they ned is to get Brook Lopez and Deron Williams healthy and they should show immediate improvement in a relatively short span once the team builds some chemistry around a consistent starting lineup and the rotations that follow. Brooklyn has a ways to go just to get back to .500, but given the huge dropoff in talent once you get past the Heat and the Pacers, it makes sense that the team most talented on paper would rise to the top of that group before the regular season is finished.

  1. phillysports1 - Nov 29, 2013 at 12:30 AM

    Sixers lol

    • pbtunpaidwriter - Nov 30, 2013 at 1:03 AM

      I take the field.

  2. shanelsweet - Nov 29, 2013 at 7:13 AM

    Thanks for the shout out of the Wiz, Brett. Seems that the Bulls ownership is going to blow up that team, and the Nets are learning that old talent sometimes ages into just old pretty quickly. Wiz vs Pacers tonight is going to open a lot of eyes to just how much better the Wiz have become since that 4-28 start last year.

    • dexterismyhero - Nov 30, 2013 at 9:42 AM

      So much for the Wiz. Wall gets 8 points in a 20 point blowout. Nice try though.

  3. jbeagles23 - Nov 29, 2013 at 7:55 AM

    The east is awful

    • fanofevilempire - Nov 29, 2013 at 11:45 AM

      the knicks will win 70 straight games and show the world

      • jimeejohnson - Nov 30, 2013 at 8:24 AM

        Delusional homer intended.

      • homergreenz - Nov 30, 2013 at 2:25 PM

        I love the enthusiasm.

  4. borderline1988 - Nov 29, 2013 at 9:36 AM

    True, but I’d argue the 2 best teams in the NBA are in the East.

    After that, everyone sucks. The most amazing thing about everyone else sucking is that I don’t see it getting any better. Maybe the Bulls, Knicks and Nets will get better record-wise, but compared to the West, they will still suck all the way to the end of the season.

    I’m very disappointed in the Nets, I really believed they’d be a championship contender. I figured the offense would start out slowly, but the fact that their defense is so bad, that worries me.

    • tomasekradek - Nov 29, 2013 at 1:12 PM

      Really? I honestly expected the exact opposite. Bad to horrible defense because of their average age about 40 and very few good defenders. But enough offensive talent to outscore many opponents and finish 4th or 5th in the East.
      That said, Nets were never a true contender for me.

  5. homergreenz - Nov 29, 2013 at 10:46 AM

    The Bulls after Jimmy Butler returns, unless they trade Deng for picks and in that case the Hawks by default.

    The Wizards perhaps if they make a trade and improve their depth, their bench is mostly awful.

    • unxpexted1 - Nov 29, 2013 at 12:21 PM

      I agree, i think the wizards have a really good chance. They’ve been playing without their first round draft pick all season. So that will add depth right there. I just think they have the highest ceiling because John Wall has the highest superstar potential left in the east race.

  6. apkyletexas - Nov 29, 2013 at 11:05 AM

    Just like Jordan did, Lebron should stay in the NBA’s LEAST Conference if he wants to mop up on easy competition each year and add to his titles.

    Jordan and the Perennial All-Star Bulls only had the Knicks and their one quality player, Ewing, standing in between them and the finals most years.

    Too bad MJ just “happened” to be playing baseball for the two years that the Rockets had put together a serious contender.

    • philtration - Nov 29, 2013 at 10:25 PM

      So the Bulls lost in their 6 Finals match ups with Western Confereence teams?
      If Jordan did not walk away for two years they would have won 8 straight titles because Houston sure as hell was not going to beat them.
      I would say going 6-0 against the West in the Finals pretty much shows that your rant about the East being a cake walk is dumb at best because the Bulls had no issues with beating the best of the West.
      Do you know anything at all about the Pacers, Magic and Pistons teams back then?
      Teams like the Bucks, Heat and Hawks were far from pushovers.

      Educate yourself a bit.

  7. brianscalabrine - Nov 29, 2013 at 3:52 PM

    It doesn’t really matter. These awful teams are just delaying the inevitable Pacers-Heat ECF.

  8. bealwithit - Nov 29, 2013 at 5:49 PM

    The Wizards are only 1 game behind the Hawks and have been playing well. I really like how they are playing without their leading scorer Bradley Beal or 3rd overall pick Otto Porter.

    If they beat the Pacers tonight (not likely), then they would move to the 3rd seed and definitely be my pick for 3rd best team.

  9. jimeejohnson - Nov 30, 2013 at 8:23 AM

    The Knicks suck!

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