When the 2012-13 NBA regular season began, the common belief was that the Eastern Conference was stronger than ever. From the realignment of stars to the addition of depth, the East's paper contenders had caught up to the Western Conference.
As the following slides will show you, however, there are Eastern Conference favorites that are in need of a wake-up call in 2013.
From the underachieving franchises to the teams whose win-loss record does not define their current state, the East has been a conference of disappointment. Fortunately, the year has not been lost just yet.
Such has been proven by the Indiana Pacers, who started at 6-8. They've now won 12 of their past 17 games and solidified their status as a conference contender.
The following teams must follow their pattern.
Doc Rivers can't seem to find his second unit.
W-L Record: 14-16
Last 10 Games: 3-7
Key Injuries: Avery Bradley, shoulder surgery; Chris Wilcox, sore right thumb
The Boston Celtics have lost seven of their past nine games. They've lost each of their past three games by at least 18 points.
If that's not a team in need of a wake-up call, what is?
The Celtics finished 2012 with a record of 14-16 after losing by 22 points to the 11-19 Sacramento Kings. Only one of their past four wins has come against a team with a winning record.
So where did it all go wrong?
Entering the 2012-13 NBA season, Boston was praised as a team of extraordinary depth.
Boston's second unit presently ranks 20th in offensive efficiency and 22nd in defensive efficiency. They rank 19th in bench points per game.
This is mainly due to the fact that Courtney Lee, Jason Terry and Jeff Green have been inconsistent, at best.
Otherwise, this could be a long season in Beantown.
Avery Johnson is out. Will the results improve?
W-L Record: 16-15
Last 10 Games: 4-6
Key Injuries: Kris Humphries, mild abdominal strain; Gerald Wallace, bruised left knee
In what can only be described as a shocking turn of events, the Brooklyn Nets fired head coach Avery Johnson on December 27, 2012 (via ESPN New York).
Upon his firing, the Nets proceeded to win two consecutive games under interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo. That joyride ended on December 31, as the Nets lost 104-73 against the San Antonio Spurs.
It's time for Brooklyn to wake up or watch its postseason dreams wash away.
Deron Williams and Gerald Wallace continues to fight off injuries. Kris Humphries can say the same.
The issue is, the Nets have far too much depth to suffer so severely from an occasional injury.
If the Nets fail to win early in 2013, they may end up with a low seed in the postseason. Even worse, they could miss out on the playoffs altogether.
The pressure is on in Brooklyn.
Derrick Rose hasn't been the only key player missing.
W-L Record: 16-13
Last 10 Games:
Key Injuries: Derrick Rose, torn ACL; Kirk Hinrich, knee
Before readers claim that the Chicago Bulls are only struggling because Derrick Rose is absent, think again.
D-Rose missed 27 games during the 2011-12 NBA regular season. In that time, Chicago went 18-9.
They'd proceed to win the Eastern Conference regular-season crown.
Truth be told, there is no reason they can't do the same in 2012-13.
The issue with this team is that Chicago has disbanded its second unit. From Omer Asik's rebounding and energy to Kyle Korver and C.J. Watson's sharpshooting, the Bulls have lost intricate contributors to their previous success.
Even as Nate Robinson has had a strong season, the absence of reliable reserves has been felt.
Losing Richard Hamilton for 13 games and Kirk Hinrich for four certainly doesn't help the Bulls' cause, either.
Come 2013, it is imperative that Chicago starts out strong. The key to this will be to improving their performances at home.
The Bulls were 26-7 at home in 2011-12. They've already lost eight home games in 2012-13.
Winning the division without D-Rose may not be a reality if they fail to turn things around on their home court.
Sometimes it seems like a game of 1-on-5.
W-L Record: 21-8
Last 10 Games: 8-2
Key Injuries: N/A
What are the Miami Heat doing on here at 21-8? Still searching for consistency.
Through 29 games, the Heat rank 17th in the NBA by allowing an average of 97.8 points per game. They've allowed 12 opponents to top 100 points.
Most recently, the Heat played the Charlotte Bobcats, Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards over a four-game stretch.
They went 2-2 during that time.
That includes a 112-110 overtime victory against Orlando and losses to Detroit and Washington. Charlotte was within three points with 5:08 remaining.
Underwhelming, to say the least.
Admittedly, players such as Ray Allen and Dwyane Wade have been battling injuries. D-Wade was also suspended for the game against Charlotte.
Miami needs to wake up, folks. If they don't, their dreams of repeating as NBA champions will not be realized.
Jrue Holiday is having a career year. He just can't find any help to turn numbers into wins.
W-L Record: 14-17
Last 10 Games: 2-8
Key Injuries: Andrew Bynum, knee
Thus far in 2012-13, the Philadelphia 76ers are picking up where they left off during the 2011-12 regular season—picking up impressive wins but failing to display any form of consistency.
Many will attribute this to the absence of center Andrew Bynum. Those people would be hitting the nail on the head.
Philly designed its roster to work from the inside-out. The key to this is having a dominant big in the paint to collapse opposing defenses.
With Bynum absent, the Sixers simply haven't had that luxury.
The most unfortunate aspect of Philadelphia's struggles is the fact that they started at 10-6 behind Jrue Holiday's All-Star-caliber numbers.
He's maintained that pace while averaging 18.6 points, 8.9 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 1.3 steals for the season. The team hasn't followed suit.
The 76ers have lost 11 of their past 15 games.
Holiday joins Jason Richardson and Bynum as key players who have missed playing time due to injury. Even still, Philly cannot allow itself to use ailments as an excuse.
This team has far too much talent to be sitting three games below .500. They need to wake up in 2013 or face the fate of a team on the outside looking in.