The Eastern Conference is very top heavy with multiple power house teams at the top including Boston, Miami and Orlando. Once you pass the top five, you start to see the records start to go well below .500.
One team that looks to crack that top four this year are the 76ers.
The Sixers are closing in fast and rapidly moving up the Eastern standings. They currently sit in the seventh seed, only one and a half games back of New York. The way they are playing, they could easily finish the year as high as the fifth seed, after going 27-55 last season.
After a 3-13 start, the Sixers have gone 23-15.
The Sixers have risen up the standings thanks to many factors. Here are some reasons why the Sixers can, and will, continue to rise up the Eastern Conference, and potentially turn heads come playoff time.
Doug Collins, in his first year with the team, arguably has been the most influential factor so far.
Collins has brought some much needed stability to the coaching position in Philadelphia. After having three different coaches the past three seasons, Collins looks to stay for awhile longer.
Collins has turned this young team into a legitimate contender. They feel like they can beat any team on any given night.
The players play for Collins, which may be the biggest thing to look at.
Also, the Sixers team defense has improved vastly under the coaching of Collins. The Sixers are giving up more than five points per game less than last season's team.
Opponents are also shooting three percent lower from the field as well this season.
Five Sixers are averaging more than 10 PPG. Jodie Meeks is right there averaging 9.7 PPG as well.
The Sixers have no go-to-guy, which can be a problem sometimes, but for the Sixers, their balanced lineup is working just fine.
If their leading scorer has an off night, then one of the other four starters can pick his teammates up.
Collins has the ability to use a very deep bench. The Sixers, at times this season, have gone 10 or 11 deep in games. This allows players to stay fresh and save their legs for the fourth quarter.
Elton Brand is finally living up to the team's expectations that were set for him when he signed an $80 million deal three summers ago.
One thing that has held Brand back has been his health. He played only 95 games in his first two seasons in Philly.
He has only missed one game so far this year.
Brand is finally healthy and he's proving that he can help this team out still. He is averaging over 15 PPG and shooting near a career-best 52 percent from the floor.
Since Jodie Meeks became a starter in December, he has provided a much needed three-point threat to the lineup.
The Sixers have been looking for a new threat ever since they had to trade Kyle Korver due to cap concerns. They traded for Jason Kapono last season, but that has not worked out at all.
Meeks is averaging 10.7 PPG as a starter and shooting over 40 percent from behind the arc. Those stats are in games in which he is only averaging 26 MPG too.
Holiday, at only 21-years of age, is turning into the franchise PG he was drafted to be two years ago.
He has to be on the list of most improved players for the year. He is averaging 13.7 PPG, a 5.7 point increase from last year, and 6.2 APG, up from 3.8 last year.
At 21, Holiday has already turned into the team leader along with Andre Iguodala. The Sixers have a franchise PG for the first time since Eric Snow left the team.
The Sixers do not have the most talented team in the conference. They do not even have a team that should be in the playoff race right now, at least on paper probably.
However, the young and athletic Sixers love playing with each other. They play every night like they have nothing to lose...and they really don't.
No one put any expectations on this team at the start of the season. Now with their good play as of late, those expectations might begin to rise.
I believe that the Sixers can continue the streak they are on and make the playoffs as a fifth or sixth seed. The Sixers have a good young core that should become a legitimate contender if they find another scorer.