Beasts of the East: Grading the Best Teams of the Eastern Conference

Grading the Best Teams of the Eastern Conference image

📖 Published on: February 16th, 2024

✍️ Updated: February 20th, 2024

⏳ 11 mins read


With the first half of the 2023-24 NBA season out of the way, it is now time to see which of the Eastern Conference teams have managed to deliver a promising start and stay on the prowl in their games. This season has been a roller coaster ride, and you can say that this season is definitely a tighter one that we have seen in years.


Who Are the Best Teams from the First Half in the Eastern Conference?


As the players took their rest and enjoyed the festivities of the All-Star Weekend, it is safe to say that all teams will be coming in with a different pace when the games begin again. But what happened in the last four months of hoops action that made fans enjoy the best of the NBA? GambleSpot discusses the biggest performances and successes of the teams in the Eastern Conference. Here we compare the biggest stats, ups and downs of the top squads that have reigned over the East.


Here are the best teams in the Eastern Conference:


1. Cleveland Cavaliers - A+


Cleveland Cavaliers image


The Cleveland Cavaliers made one of the best improvements in their game in just a short span of time. No one can underestimate the team’s progress in the Eastern Conference. Sure, they are under the shadows of the Boston Celtics, but it does seem that the Cavs can still make a bigger stride by the turn of the second half, which just says a lot about how they are gaining ground in the East with an impressive mark. From a statistical standpoint, the Cavs are doing great with their new rotations. They have won 18 of their last 20 games and have taken care of business without much hassle against the lowly teams in the league.


The second half of the season should also give them a better schedule as they are likely to keep moving up – no reason for them to fall from their current campaign so far. They have one of the best net ratings in the NBA, which says a lot about how they are pacing to a bigger campaign.


What Can the Cavs Do to Improve?


It has already been proven that the team is good with Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen on the floor running the offense. The duo has been quite spectacular on both ends of the floor, and they are anchoring the Cavaliers to a bigger playoff run. After all, it does seem fitting that they come back stronger after losing to the New York Knicks in the playoffs last year.


2. Boston Celtics - A


If perfection is what we’re looking for in the Eastern Conference, then the Boston Celtics should be the role model for that. The only reason that the Cavs are up on the list is that the Celtics are expected to pull this one off, especially after that upgrade with Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday. As the best team in the league, and the only team to win more than 40 games in the NBA, the expectations are high enough for the C’s to deliver at the end of the day. On top of that, it looks like the trio of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Porzingis is clicking well, and they are being considered as one of the formidable super teams in the league right now.


Boston Celtics image


They have the best efficiency rating of all teams with at least three All-Stars – yes, better than the Los Angeles Clippers’ two-way trio and the Phoenix Suns’ elite scoring trio. That says a lot about how Joe Mazzulla is handling this team well and steering them into playoff contention with a lot of determination.


What Should the League Expect from the Celtics?


Fatigue is not an issue for the Celtics at all, they have a lighter run in the first season, and it does seem that the team managed to come up with bigger strides. The second half won’t be much better though, as the team is slated to come up with one of the toughest schedules after the All-Star Break. However, the team should be facing some of the bigger challenges they will ever see – yet.


3. Milwaukee Bucks - B+


Milwaukee Bucks image


The acquisition of Damian Lillard has significantly helped the offense of the Bucks – setting it to a whole new level. Giannis Antetokounmpo has also stepped up into his MVP form once more – bringing his game with impressive strides night in and night out. With Doc Rivers stepping in, it does seem that the Bucks need to do better than starting out 3-7 in that stretch before the All-Star Break. This is why it is important to consider that the Bucks will have some problems moving forward. The Bucks are clearly struggling to fit in with their new identity – first with Lillard, and second with Rivers establishing his touch to the team.


It would take some time for the Bucks to sync up – explaining the downfall they’ve seen and the close games they played ever since Rivers joined the fray. The good news is just that the Bucks have significantly improved in their defense – and are likely to continue that way at the very least.


What Should Doc Rivers Fix Up for the Bucks?


The Bucks are quite a team that has championship experience with its core. Giannis is still itching for more titles in his belt, and the rest of the team has valuable additions that should make it easier for them to thrive as a whole. Rivers just needs to create a new system that will allow the rest of the team to build on in the second half of the season. Offense is a particular issue, but with the two best scoring duos in the league, they should do just fine.


4. New York Knicks - B-


Considering the fact that they are indeed winners of the trade deadline, the Knicks still have a lot to improve in their games down the stretch especially with injuries putting them in trouble. Adding Bojan Bogdanovic, Alec Burks, and OG Anunoby seem to be the big win as they didn’t need to surrender a draft pick. However, it is high time that the Knicks embrace themselves as contenders in a wild East that is expected to make a lot of noise like the West. There are plenty of problems to consider with the Knicks trying to identify itself that way. Injuries to Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle have certainly cost them key games down the stretch. They will need contributory performances from the rest of the team to stay afloat.


New York Knicks image


So far, the Knicks need to stay on the prowl with the rest of the squad – whoever’s left to hold the fort when their stars are out. Tom Thibodeau has to figure out a way to keep on winning especially in the second half of the season.


How Can the Knicks Secure a Playoff Berth?


The Knicks definitely need more than just a push in their games when it comes to scoring without Brunson or Randle. There is also a huge need for the team to improve their defense. The first five teams they played against this month have combined to shoot 45% from deep, and they have outscored New York by 75 points from that range alone. This is an issue that needs to be resolved, otherwise their playoff chances are going to be really a long shot.


Honorable Mentions


The Orlando Magic were one of the top teams to look out for to begin, but then they crashed hard and have begun to pick up the pieces. The same can be said for the Miami Heat, who are expected to be on the prowl in the second half all the way to the playoffs. The Indiana Pacers are also one of the rising contenders to look out for and are probably getting a bead on a run in the second half of the campaign as well.


It is also worth noting that the Philadelphia 76ers were also in the upper echelon of the East for most of the first half of 2023-24. That was, until Joel Embiid began missing a lot of games and eventually got injured – which also disqualified him from the MVP race. Now the expectations for the Sixers is to just stay alive until the star center manages to return in full health.


Setting the Bar: What to Expect in the Second Half from the East?


The East has a lot of fiery teams to look out for. However, it seems clear that the Boston Celtics will be ahead of the rest of the league for now. The Cavaliers and Bucks will likely battle it out for the second and third spots, but the Knicks will probably struggle to stay afloat in the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference. It would be a fun watch to see how these teams will stay alive in their chase of the Larry O’Brien trophy.


With the NBA currently on break, it seems that you can take a breather as well before trying to place your wagers on the biggest teams in the Eastern Conference. Who knows, maybe your favorite team may just reach the NBA Finals and be one step away from their goals. Learning from their mistakes and lapses in the first half of the season is a start, but there’s still games left to play in a long season.

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