The third best team in the Eastern Conference is...?

The third best team in the Eastern Conference is...?
November 29, 2013, 11:15 pm
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Highlights: Pacers 93, Wizards 73

Washington Wizards point guard John Wall (2) reacts with Nene (42), of Brazil, as New York Knicks point guard Beno Udrih (18), of Slovenia, looks on during the second half of an NBA basketball game on Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, in Washington. The Wizards won 98-89.

(AP Photo/Nick Wass)

Discussing the Wizards status in the Eastern Conference on a night they were whacked by the Pacers admittedly isn't ideal. However, the topic came over at ProBasketballTalk on Thanksgiving Day before the Nene-less squad lost the game and their fast-breaking mojo.

Before Friday's setback, the Wizards had been on a nice roll, winning five of six entering the holiday. That kind of stretch stands out in a conference lacking standout squads beyond the defending champion Miami Heat and the Pacers. Chicago, Brooklyn and New York were expected to be part of that top shelf, but the Bulls lost Derrick Rose for the season while the Knicks and Nets just keep losing. 

That has opened the door for teams including the Wizards, Hawks, Pistons and Raptors not to just think about making the playoffs but finishing rather high in the standings.

[RELATED: Pacers 93, Wizards 73]

The PBT crew broke it down roundtable style by selecting a third best team and later in the season. Of the three writers, only Brett Pollakoff mentioned the locals:

"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.

"... 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 andJoakim Noah.

[MORE: Randy Wittman's post-game comments (Video)]

But because the conference is so mediocre overall, I’ll go with the Nets. Look, all they need 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 drop-off 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."

Again, not the best of nights to discuss the Wizards in such lofty context, but Nene will return and at some point so will Bradley Beal and Al Harrington to join John Wall, Marcin Gortat, Martell Webster and Trevor Ariza. Before the season, many felt that core had the look of a playoff team. Now some are wondering if in light of the Eastern Conference woes the expectations should be loftier.