New Year Time Capsule: East
Here's where every team in the Eastern Conference stands on January 1st, 2010.
Atlanta Hawks: On pace for their best season since 1997, including their best offensive season ever (Offensive rating of 112.9 according to Basketball Reference) and their best defensive squad since 2001. The Hawks are threatening to make the Eastern Conference a "Big Four" though back to back losses to the suddenly red-hot Cavs have tempered that somewhat. Josh Smith is putting forth a strong effort for most-improved player, defensive player of the year, and the All-Star game.
Boston Celtics: Year three of the New Big Three era is off to a rousing start, though New Year's Day is less than spectacular. The Celtics have flat out dominated the inferior teams and have split with the elite teams (3-3 against teams with "Good" Net points according to 82games.com). Due to injuries (RED FLAGS UP!), the Celtics have lost three in a row following a big Christmas Day win over the Magic. The word is coasting, as long as they're healthy in four months.
Charlotte Bobcats: Widely considered the bleakest team in the league (as our own Tom Ziller pointed out all the way back last year), the Bobcats are struggling. While the trade for Stephen Jackson has improved their abysmal offense, it hasn't been enough to overcome the lack of talent on the squad. D.J. Augustin has regressed, Tyson Chandler hasn't worked out, and they have very little financial room to pursue more trades for players Larry Brown deems fit. The lone bright side has to be Gerald Wallace, who has been rebounding at a rate somewhat equivalent to cold fusion's output potential.
Chicago Bulls: If you're reading this from the future, then you'll probably enjoy this fact. We still don't know as of this day if Vinny Del Negro will in fact be fired. I mean, we assume so. But the Bulls have won three in a row and the Bulls still haven't pulled the trigger. Joakim Noah's been fantastic, even if no other Bull has been. Bulls fans are pretty much on riot standby for how the franchise has degraded into what is considered a flea market operation.
Cleveland Cavaliers: The Cavs are back from the dead after looking like they had jumped the shark into the fat lady's gullet and other references. After a start to the season that made their acquisition of Shaq look like it was the iceberg to their Titanic, the Cavs have now taken down the Lakers in Staples and causing their notoriously loyal fans to actually boo them in the first half (no word on if the booing was taco related). They then rattled off a pair of wins over the Hawks for their sixth win in a row and are 9-1 in their last ten. Turns out that as of now, the King is not dead, long live the King. Of course, New York looms in the background.
Detroit Pistons: This was likely not what Joe Dumars had in mind when he put together this year's Pistons team in a rebuilding effort from last year's debacle. A rash of injuries have kept at least two starters out per game and a porous defense has led to a .344 winning percentage. Neither Charlie Villanueva nor Ben Gordon seem worth the money and all of a sudden, Rodney Stuckey doesn't look ready for the reins. Three years ago we were debating Joe Dumars versus R.C. Buford for best GM in the league. Now he's not even considered the best GM in his weak division.
Indiana Pacers: Still waiting on that low point...any minute... gotta be around here somewhere...Hey, at least Roy Hibbert looks like he's alive, finally. Danny Granger being gone makes this team largely a collective ghost.
Miami Heat: The Heat run off short streaks where they look like they're thriving on team chemistry and the young pieces are coming together. Then they suddenly look human again just as quickly. They're unlikely to fall much further than fifth, but strong performances haven't quashed concerns that this team is simply not built to be anything better than "not-bad." They ended 2009 by getting crushed by the Spurs on TNT.
Milwaukee Bucks: Fortune may favor the bold but it does not carry the faint of wisdom. The Bucks plummeted back to Earth after an early start and now find themselves in free-fall, losing eight of their last eleven. Brandon Jennings is still good for his points along the way, but it's consistently taking a high number of shots and not translating to wins. Still, the team is more competitive than expected and still within range of the playoffs in a mediocre East. Now if Fortune would just quit being so stingy.
New Jersey Nets: NETS BEAT KNICKS! NETS BEAT KNICKS! NETS BEAT...Man, this team is terrible. Let's put it this way. If you're reading this from the future then you already know how the John Wall v. Devin Harris thing went. We can only hope they at least get to make that choice.
New York Knicks: The Knicks have realigned their priorities at this time, January 1st, 2010 BLBD (Before LeBron's Decision). The move now is to align their team to win as many games as possible, even if that means benching Nate Robinson or anyone else the big Mustache sees fit. At 12-20, the overall results aren't pretty, but .500 in their last ten and only one game out of the playoffs, that's kind of nice, right?
Orlando Magic: The Magic are legit, that's for certain. Only eight losses so far in the 09-10 season, and some big wins, though a loss to the Celtics on Christmas Day dampened their holiday spirits. Vince Carter hasn't filled in seamlessly for Hedo Turkoglu, but he's dong what he was brought in to do, which is to create offense. The elephant in the room so far has been significant dropoffs in production by Dwight Howard in all statistical categories except field goal percentage. His lack of touches is baffling.
Philadelphia 76ers: This team was a playoff squad the past two seasons. Hard to believe, considering how this team looks now even with Elton Brand and Allen Iverson on board. They're just not able to execute effectively on either side of the ball. With a brand new head coach in Eddie Jordan who was supposed to get immediate results and a moderate salary structure in place, Philadelphia is a sleeper candidate for biggest disappointment of the year.
Toronto Raptors: Surviving. That's really the word for the Raptors team today. While they haven't set the league on fire or turned any heads, they're still in the sixth playoff spot today and their offense is a thing of beauty. Unfortunately their defense is a nightmare of epic proportions, and this team wasn't built to contend for a sixth spot and first round exit. There's a lot of pressure on Byran Colangelo and Jay Triano right now.
Washington Wizards: There was a time about three years ago when the idea of Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler, and Gilbert Arenas together meant a definitive contending unit perennially. That time is now over. We await the next rebuilding phase. Oh, and the guy they gave a gajillion dollars to a year and a half ago? Yeah, it's being reported he pulled a gun on a teammate.