We’ve heard all the talk about the Eastern Conference since about the second week of the season. In our discussions about the Toronto Raptors, we have done our fair share of engaging in the mockery and we don’t apologize for it. Any observer has to be shocked by the futility of the group, save for the dominant two at the top. But just today, in thinking about a terrible Raptors loss a few nights ago and wondering whether the fourth seed in the West would befall the same fate, we actually looked at the totality of the East and realized, fully, what kind of state it is in. We feel brevity is a virtue in such a discussion, as expounding too much on the state of an aberration like that conference will only anger us more about teams getting worked over in the West, as well as teams in the East surmising “success” based purely on being able to say that they were a playoff team in 2013-14. That’s sad. But here’s our other thoughts about the East, and how things may set up for the Raptors if there are no drastic changes.
We’ve heard the term “top heavy” before, but …
Would “Oh, my goodness” suffice? Again, we claimed that we weren’t going to go nuts here, but Indiana and Miami are a combined 51 games over .500 while the rest of the “playoff” teams are a combined eight games under .500. We’ve never seen that. I mean, we’ve absolutely, positively, never ever seen that. It’s beyond comprehension. Now a healthy Derrick Rose for the Bulls and a Jason Kidd-less Nets team would probably make that number look a little less ridiculous, but even if that were the case, the Bobcats would still be in the playoffs. Michael Jordan could actually justify that his acquisition of Al Jefferson was the summer’s big difference. We never thought we would hear anyone say that.
The West’s bottom feeders as East title contenders? Well not quite; the West’s trash (Lakers, Kings, Jazz) is plenty bad too, but it is still an eye-opening study from top to bottom. We said that the third through eighth seeds in the East are a combined eight games under .500 and if that isn’t shocking enough, when that is contrasted with the West’s third through eighth seeds, it shows a 79-game difference. Yes, that is the difference between eight games under .500 as a unit versus 71 games over. That’s staggering and without reasonable explanation that we can ascertain (admittedly we aren’t trying very hard; those stats can’t be effectively spun, can they?). Seeds nine through 12 in the West would all make the playoffs in the East, and the West’s top nine teams all have a better record than the No. 3 Atlanta Hawks in the East. Are the Hawks even good? Could they possibly be when more than half of the West sports a better resume?
What does this mean for Toronto?
Chances are they will play Washington or Chicago or Charlotte. Welcome to the second round. Congratulations?
Imagine the message that these teams in the East can sell after the season: We made the playoffs in the conference that produced the champ (we’re sure, no matter what anyone says), and we gave ‘em a good run. Patronizing? Sure, and everyone knows how bad the East is, but has everyone really looked at it. Of course, now if the Raptors don’t make playoff noise it will probably be deemed a failure of sorts. Can’t imagine they relish that pressure, either.