Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
VIDEO: Rick Fox and Brent Barry survey the NBA landscape from the past week
> The Knicks are 8-10 but face the easiest schedule in the East in December. Who will be the East’s top 4 teams – record-wise — come the end of this month?
Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: OK, so along with Philadelphia… What? Too soon? Fine, I’ll go with Cleveland, Atlanta, Chicago and Miami. The Cavaliers are the class of the conference, well on their way to figuring things out, and even Kyrie Irving‘s return won’t derail them. Next week could be brutal for the Hawks – back-to-back at Dallas and OKC, then Spurs at home – but the rest of the month is manageable. Chicago isn’t as good as its record but, unless Jimmy Butler‘s sore foot proves to be a big deal, the Bulls can’t have as many problems in December as they had in November (offensive hiccups, spotty energy, Derrick Rose‘s eye, Joakim Noah on milk cartons). I’m going with Miami over Indiana or Toronto because the Heat, after playing 11 of their first 16 at home through November, get nine of their next 15 in Miami as well.
Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Cleveland, Indiana, Chicago, Toronto. The Raptors schedule finally turns in their favor with a bunch of home games.
Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: It’ll be Cleveland, Chicago, Indiana, Toronto.
Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I don’t think the order changes much. It’ll be Cavs, Bulls, Pacers, Heat. And I suspect by season’s end, that will be the order as well, with the Raptors or Hawks possibly sneaking in. The Knicks? I still don’t see them as a playoff team, even with a smooth December. Like most rookies, Kristaps Porzingis will hit a speed bump, and it’ll happen soon.
John Schuhmann, NBA.com: A much easier schedule should lift Chicago above Indiana. And Miami should stay ahead of the Raptors, who are missing a key piece. 1. Cleveland 2. Chicago 3. Indiana 4. Miami.
Sekou Smith, NBA.com: How about the resurgent Eastern Conference? We don’t hear all of that whining about the “Leastern Conference” these days, which is a very nice change. As for the top four in the standings at the end of this month, I’m going with the Cavaliers, Pacers, Raptors and Bulls. But that said, being in the top four at the end of the calendar year guarantees not much of anything in a season where the competition for East playoff positioning looks like it could go down to the final night.
Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Cleveland will still be No. 1 as LeBron James continues to lean on his teammates to increase their intensity. The Bulls, with their home-heavy schedule, should edge up to No. 2 ahead of the more-challenged Pacers. And then let’s say the Hawks will make a move over the latter half of the month to move up to No. 4 in the East.
Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Well, Cleveland, I think. And Atlanta, who will face an easier schedule just in terms of actually having some nights off. And then there’s Toronto, who is starting to round into form. And I also think Indiana is going to continue to develop into an elite team, as Paul George keeps returning to his pre-injury form.