Almost one-third through the 2012-13 NBA season and the Eastern Conference has given us more questions than answers. Are the Knicks the real deal? Are the Celtics done? Did the Magic really just win another game? ARE THE KNICKS THE REAL DEAL? A look at the current race for the top eight playoff spots…

WASHINGTON WIZARDS: A team going nowhere really fast. Should John Wall be traded and does he even have value at this point? At least trade Nene Hilario for youth, right? It’s clear that the current roster is not working and D.C. deserves better.

DETROIT PISTONS: They may not be a playoff team, but the fan base can dream of their own twin towers (Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe) someday developing into Olajuwan and Sampson. It’s a wild dream, but the motor city needs something without hockey.
CHARLOTTE BOBCATS: They have Kemba Walker producing much higher than anticipated and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist looks like the real deal. Two good building blocks (unfortunately Michael Jordan’s deal with the devil came due after his third retirement).
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: A true youth movement with six rookies on their active roster. You do not get to the playoffs in the NBA with six rookies so please, TRADE Anderson Varejao NOW!

TORONTO RAPTORS: Not quite hopeless, but you’d probably rather be in the projects category. Drafts have not yielded stars and free agents have not blossomed. Not a good place to be.

ORLANDO MAGIC: They have already won 12 games. Talk about screwing up your lottery chances!


PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: If they can get anything from Andrew Bynum they will probably (70% chance) sneak into the seven or eight spot for the playoffs. BIG IF.
BROOKLYN NETS: The new team smell is gone. Now it stinks like bad coaching. The hot seat is officially warm Mr. Johnson.


MILWAUKEE BUCKS: They are winning the games they need to win. This type of performance will lock the Bucks into one of the lower seeds and first round elimination.
CHICAGO BULLS: Can the defense keep this team alive until Derrick Rose returns, and will Rose have anything in the tank for this year? This bad luck may also have something to do with Michael Jordan’s deal with the devil.


MIAMI HEAT: They are still the favorites, and uh, yes, will make the playoffs.
ATLANTA HAWKS: Scary, surprising team. Josh Smith and Al Horford could lead this team deep into the playoffs. Smith could just as easily unravel and be the reason they are upset in the first round.
INDIANA PACERS: Who would have guessed it would take so long for a team to learn to play without Danny Granger? Regardless, this team is once again focused and should run away with the Central Division.
Okay, okay, they are the real deal. I’m still thinking it’s a good idea to keep either Carmelo Anthony or Amar’e Stoudemire on the injured list. Too much pressure for these two to play well together, at least that’s what Anthony’s body language is telling me.
BOSTON CELTICS: This team is not impressive, but I can’t picture a scenario where they do not hang on to at least the eight spot (before they get swept by Ray Allen and the Heat).

David S. Grant is an author of several books, rock columnist, travel writer, and NBA blogger. Follow David on Twitter: @david_s_grant