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NBA: Season Update - Big hitters make their moves in the East

We’re over a third of the way through the NBA season, so while there’s still time for teams to get things right, the standings at this point are pretty telling.

With just a week to go until the NBA’s Christmas Day slate – a major milestone in the season – it’s a good time to look at where all 30 teams stand.

With under two months remaining until the trade deadline, we should soon start seeing moves as teams jostle for play-off spots or decide to lean into a rebuild. Given that, this is a good time to evaluate if teams are set to be buyers or sellers come the deadline.

Eastern streak

The Eastern Conference saw plenty of interesting names towards the top early on, with the Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers and Washington Wizards each making good starts. However, as the season has ticked on many of the top teams from the East have hit form, surging into play-off spots.

The Brooklyn Nets are up to fourth, sitting just four games back from league leaders the Boston Celtics. They’re looking like genuine title contenders, justifying their price of +1100 to win the championship this term. Narrowly behind them are the Philadelphia 76ers, with both set to play a big part in the postseason this term.

Even the New York Knicks are in on it, having won six straight at the time of writing to sit sixth in the East. That’s moved the Knicks to -140 to make the play-offs, having been seen as outsiders earlier this season. They’re under pressure from the Miami Heat, who claimed a fourth straight win in their visit to Mexico City on Saturday night to move within a game of the top six.

Each of those teams would have been mentioned as franchises needing major surgery before the deadline, but now they could just do with an addition to tidy things up around the edges.

Will the tumbling Raptors make a move?

The Toronto Raptors were able to finish fifth in the Eastern Conference last season, pushing the Sixers to six games in the first round of the play-offs. With hope for Scottie Barnes and Pascal Siakam to move up a gear, there was an expectation that the Canadian team would make a leap this season.

However, Toronto sit in the final play-in place in the East, having lost their last four. They’re set to embark on a tough stretch where all but one of their upcoming opponents sit at .500 or better, so front office chief Masai Ujiri has a decision to make.

The Raptors leant into a tank at the deadline in 2021, while this time around they have the expiring deals of Fred van Vleet and Gary Trent Jr to consider. The Raptors want to be contenders without inking big contract extensions, so they could be both buyers and sellers this year.

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Struggling hopefuls in the West

While the big guns have their act together in the East, the Western Conference is a different story. From ninth to 12th in the standings are preseason title hopefuls, with the Dallas Mavericks, Minnesota Timberwolves, Golden State Warriors and the LA Lakers all low down the table.

Of those four, it’s the Lakers who have made the most ground of late. They’ve found their feet after an awful start, pushing them back into a position where the front office is ready to deal out their remaining two first-round picks.

Bradley Beal, DeMar DeRozan and even Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have all been linked with a trade to LA in recent days. It looks likely that the Lakers will make a move before February 9th and they’re hunting big targets.

Time for Pels to go all in?

The New Orleans Pelicans were one of the leading trade candidates for Kevin Durant in the summer and they have a bounty of picks and players to offer up in a trade. Their side built around Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson has moved to second in the Western Conference, but they could do with a little more in order to truly contend in the postseason.

While the Pelicans are +450 to finish as the West’s top seed, they’re +900 to make the Finals and +1800 to win the championship.

They’ve got a good coach, star players and they’re in the mix towards the top of the league. This year’s trade deadline might be the time that the Pels decide to go all-in, trading in their upcoming draft picks for immediate help with their title window opening earlier than anticipated.

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