Atlanta made the playoffs as the fifth seed in the East with only 44 wins. In comparison, the Grizzlies, who were the eighth seed in the West, finished the year with 46 wins. The Pacers manage to make the playoffs with a losing record and the 76ers grabbed the seventh seed with a .500 record. In other words, next year the Wizards will probably only need a .500 record to make the playoffs as the eighth seed.
The East is top heavy with Chicago, Boston, Miami, New York and Orlando (assuming Dwight Howard stays on the Magic) leading the conference. The top six teams, which includes the Hawks, are probably going to remain in the playoffs in some order, but the rest of the conference is incredibly weak.
Teams like Cleveland, Toronto and Detroit will inevitably be terrible next year as their rosters lack talent in a big way. New Jersey has who I believe is the best PG in the league in Deron Williams, but not much else around him. Charlotte does not have a leader to carry them to the playoffs after trading away Gerald Wallace to Portland. Milwaukee has a great young center in Bogut and a fairly good guard in Jennings, but other than these two players, the Bucks do not have much else on their roster.
Out of the teams who actually made the playoffs this year, let’s focus on the seventh and eighth seeds. The 76ers have a high possibility of falling off next season. Even though Andre Iguodala is an athletic freak, he should not be the leader of your franchise. Evan Turner showed rare flashes this year, but he did not show consistency that would garner a No. 2 overall pick.
Elton Brand is aging and is no longer the low-post threat he used to be. Young players like Spencer Hawes, Jrue Holiday and Marreese Speights are great, but they all played out of their minds last year. The only way that the 76ers make the playoffs next year is if all these players play as well, if not better, than they did last year and that is difficult to see.
In terms of the Pacers, they have a lot of young talent, including Collison, Hansbrough and Hibbert. Hibbert and Hansbrough greatly improved their games last year. I expect this upward slope to continue as they both still have room for improvement. The best player on their roster, Danny Granger, did not even play in their first round matchup against the Bulls, yet they still managed to put up a fight. In the end, I see them moving up to the seventh seed while the 76ers fall out of the playoffs. The Wizards will sneak into the playoffs and grab the eighth seed.