Which upstart East team (Cavs or Hornets) has best chance to make playoffs?

Darius Garland (David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)
Darius Garland (David Richard-USA TODAY Sports) /

Which upstart Eastern Conference team has the best chance to make the NBA playoffs – Charlotte Hornets or Cleveland Cavaliers? 

Through a little more than the first half of the season, there have been two teams in the Eastern Conference that have been the surprise story of the year. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Charlotte Hornets have been better than most expected and appear to have the look of a playoff team.

Question is, looking at the landscape of the East, it’s unlikely that both will make the postseason and there is even doubt one will make it. However, objectively, trying to pick which team is in a better position moving forward in the East could be difficult.

Though, let’s take a look at both teams and make a prediction.

Cleveland Cavaliers

As strange as it may sound, the Cavs have become one of my favorite teams to watch – unless they’re playing my favorite team, of course. Here is the tale of the tape:

  • 19th-ranked offensive rating
  • 3rd-ranked defensive rating  
  • 5th-ranked net rating 

They’re 16-12 and ranked fifth in the East standings. Though, right behind them are the Philadelphia 76ers, Atlanta Hawks, and Boston Celtics. Darius Garland has taken another step in his progression, Evan Mobley is the real deal, and Jarrett Allen has been worth every penny thus far.

Even though their offense is concerning, the fact that they can lean on their defense should be assuring. Interestingly enough, the Hornets are almost the complete opposite of the Cavs in that aspect.

Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets are certainly more flash than the Cavs, especially with LaMelo Ball running the show. But they also don’t have the full depth that the Cavs have on their roster. That said, let’s look at the tale of the tape:

  • 2nd-ranked offensive rating
  • 30th-ranked defensive rating
  • 17th-ranked net rating

Charlotte has, statistically, the worst defense in the league but also one of the best offenses in the league. The Hornets are essentially the new wave of the NBA while the Cavs are hoping their defense is what will lead their way to success in the East.

Quite frankly, especially with what has been the recent trend in the playoffs, it’s always better to rely on great defense and a bad or mediocre offense than a bad defense with great offense.

That’s the biggest reason why I believe the Cavs are certainly on the right track to make the postseason this year. Even though the Hornets have the more flashy highlights and bigger names on the roster, it’s the Cavs that will prove to be in a better position this season.

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I’m not saying you should sell your Hornets stock, but there’s no reason to believe you should not buy the Cavs right now.