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Which is the best NBA team in the Eastern Conference?

January 30, 2012 |  1:58 pm

Derrick Rose, LeBron James

Writers from around the Tribune Co. discuss which team is the best in the NBA's Eastern Conference. You can join the discussion by leaving a comment of your own.

Baxter Holmes, Los Angeles Times

No longer do LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh play awkward basketball.

They look like teammates.

No longer do the other Miami Heat players look like uniform fillers. They look like teammates.

James is establishing himself as the top scorer (29.5 points a game), but while Wade’s (19.9) and Bosh’s (21.4) numbers are down, Miami’s offense is more potent. That’s partly because someone (Mario Chalmers) aside from those three is averaging double-digit points and another guy (Norris Cole) can hit that number, too.

Also, the off-season acquisition of Shane Battier is a wildly underrated defensive upgrade.

Dallas took the NBA title a season ago when Miami was a talented-enough team but not enough of a team overall. This season, the Heat are, finally, both.

K.C. Johnson, Chicago Tribune

The Miami Heat are the best team in the Eastern Conference and, barring major injuries, they will prove it yet again to the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference finals. The Bulls' strengths are the Heat's weaknesses. Derrick Rose likes to attack the rim and the Heat possess few shot-blockers. The Bulls are strong up front in terms of big-man depth, and the Heat are not. They have upgraded their depth with the additions of Shane Battier and Norris Cole and a return to health for Udonis Haslem.

But simply put, the Heat can have at least two All-Stars on the court at all times and often three in LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. The Bulls have Rose and an almost-All-Star in Luol Deng, who is borderline elite for his versatility, not his ability to create. As good as the Bulls are defensively, stopping three primary scorers four times in seven games is too tough a task. And that will apply to the Western Conference as well when the Heat win the NBA Finals.

Josh Robbins, Orlando Sentinel

The Miami Heat beat the Chicago Bulls on Sunday.

The Heat eliminated the Bulls in last spring’s playoffs in five games.

And the Heat have two bona fide superstars (plus Chris Bosh) to the Bulls’ one.

So, Miami is the best team in the East.

Entering Monday, the Bulls had allowed opponents to shoot 42.7% from the field, and the Heat had allowed opponents to shoot 42.8%. That difference is negligible.

But Miami was shooting 48.3%, while Chicago was at 45.9%.

The Heat simply have more weapons, even if LeBron James must prove in the upcoming postseason that he can deliver in the fourth quarter.

Fear not, Bulls fans. The title of “best team in the East” is a worthless title right now, anyway.

Miami and Chicago likely will face each other in the playoffs, and the playoffs are the time when the Bulls can prove themselves.


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Photo: Chicago's Derrick Rose is guarded by Miami's LeBron James. Credit: Mike Ehrmann / Getty Images