As highlighted by Grantland’s Bill Simmons, the NBA’s Eastern Conference is a "muddled mess of mediocre players, bad executives and even worse contracts." Through a month and a half of the 2013-14 season, only three teams are above .500: the Miami Heat, the Indiana Pacers, and the Atlanta Hawks. Realistically, the top two playoff spots are already accounted for in the East. The rest of the conference is up for grabs.
Among the most talented Eastern Conference teams going in the right direction are the Detroit Pistons. High-profile offseason acquisitions Brandon Jennings and Josh Smith are finally starting to jell in Detroit’s explosive starting lineup, while Andre Drummond is clearly taking the next step toward NBA superstardom in only his second season.
Greg Monroe is one of the conference’s most consistent power forwards and rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been a seamless fit since being inserted into the starting lineup on November 15. Detroit has played its most impressive three games of the season in wins against Philadelphia, at Miami and at Milwaukee, and at 9-10 stands just one game back of .500 heading into Saturday’s game at Chicago.
Though the entire Eastern conference is theoretically still in the hunt to finish one spot behind Indiana and Miami, five teams pose the greatest threat to the Pistons’ quest for third. With current record, key players and the teams' realistic ceilings taken into consideration, they can found by clicking below: