Importance of seeding
Last season, the battle for seeding at the top of the Eastern Conference was relatively boring. The Toronto Raptors were a comfortable margin away from catching the Milwaukee Bucks. The Philadelphia 76ers weren’t in the realm of catching the Raptors.
The first-round matchups didn’t matter much anyway, as the four teams at the top were clear favorites no matter who they faced. And when all four series finished in five games or less, it proved that seeding was far less important than in most years.
This season, seeding should be close and will matter a great amount. The Toronto Raptors, Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, and Philadelphia 76ers are all within a half-game of each other, fighting for the two-seed. — Milwaukee, meanwhile continues to be their dominant self, gaining early separation from the pack.
As the East stands currently, the standings the top could be critical. The 4-seed vs 5-seed matchup will feature two of the aforementioned teams in what’s sure to be a knock-down-drag-out fight. Last night’s game, while exciting, only reinforced that the margin between these two teams is extremely tight. A seven-game series could go either way.
Earning the 3-seed won’t get the Raptors completely out of the woods. The Indiana Pacers are playing well and still haven’t gotten their best player back from injury. They aren’t quite at the Raptors, Celtics, Heat, or 76ers level, but their close.
The 2-7 matchup looks like the first series that will have a definitive favorite and definitive underdog. All four teams will be battling for that spot.
With very clear advantages every step of the ladder on the standings, the Eastern Conference playoff race should be much more interesting than it was last season.