1) Miami Heat
Miami looked like they were going to be a dominant team coming out of the gate after the addition of Ray Allen to their previously loose bench.
They haven't played well on the road, and their perimeter defense has been weak so far, but the Miami Heat will be the best team in the East, bar none.
Once the playoffs roll around this small-ball lineup of Miami's should be a lot more daunting and weathered than they were before.
2) New York Knicks
Initially, everybody was speculative about the overall age of New York bringing the team down, and they worried about how Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire would play together. The Knicks have impressed a bit so far, however.
Props to the New York Knicks for their fast start. Carmelo looks like a different player, but I can't see them winning the East or continuing to shoot an incredible three-point percentage and to turn the ball over at an all-time low rate.
Going forward, New York will still have age and the re-introduction of Amar'e to worry about, but they've always got Anthony to fall back on.
3) Boston Celtics
Most people were high on the Celtics coming into the season, claiming their bench was going to make them a lot stabler than last season.
It seems like the team is still trying to figure out which rotations make the most sense, and they're waiting for Avery Bradley's return to give them the boost they need.
Boston is struggling out of the gate, but they seem to play in streaks every season. They'll be on a hot streak soon enough.
4) Chicago Bulls
Initially, we had a lot of folks calling for the Bulls to more or less tank the season. Write it off, amnesty Carlos Boozer and see how things roll out with Taj Gibson as the starting power forward.
However, this Chicago Bulls team is a lot better than we though they were at the start of the season. They don't have Derrick Rose and they don't have the bench mob, but they can play some manly defense.
Moving forward, they'll have to continue to play tough defense if they want to stay in the top half of the East, but it seems quite possible.
5) Brooklyn Nets
The world was hot and cold on the Nets coming into the season. Some saw them as a better team than the Knicks, but others pointed to their lack of frontcourt defense and laughed out loud. We've seen both teams this season.
Brooklyn has both put a hurting on some teams (namely Orlando) and completely collapsed against others (Minnesota), so they'll need to even themselves out.
They haven't been pretty at times, but as this Brooklyn Nets team grows and comes together, they should have no problem making the playoffs—as long as they can play a bit of defense along the way.
6) Atlanta Hawks
The prevailing thought coming into the season wasn't that the Hawks were going to miss the playoffs, but that they had a team that would potentially be better without Joe Johnson.
The Hawks have had a season so far where they've won some big games and lost defensible games. An opening-night loss to Houston hit a hot team out of the gate, Miami and Los Angeles were legitimately better teams, and their loss to Golden State came in the middle of a West Coast trip.
Give them a few more weeks to smooth out the lumps, see what happens with regard to Josh Smith at the trade deadline, and we'll have a better idea about this Hawks team, but they don't look too bad right now.
7) Milwaukee Bucks
The Bucks were a popular "squeeze-in" playoff team along with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Washington Wizards. With Cleveland and Washington looking borderline terrible at times, that leaves the Bucks.
The combination of Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings hasn't worked perfectly for the Milwaukee Bucks, but it's been impressive how they've played at times thus far, especially Jennings working as a truer point guard.
Milwaukee will continue to play up-and-down ball, but they should be able to jam their way into the playoffs.
8) Philadelphia 76ers
There was a lot of excitement surrounding the Philadelphia 76ers coming into the season, but that all hinged on Andrew Bynum, who has yet to play a game in a 76ers uniform.
Jrue Holiday has looked very good so far, and the team is afloat without Bynum, so there seems to be a path to the playoffs beaten out.
All they've got to do is stay on it.
Can the Philadelphia 76ers survive without Andrew? It looks possible so far, but it's going to take some work. I think they'll beat out Indiana, which doesn't seem to have anybody to step up and take games over with Danny Granger out.