Pistons, Pacers two best in the NBA

It's not the Leastern Conference anymore. The East has gotten much stronger.

Updated: October 25, 2004, 4:32 PM ET
By Chad Ford | NBA Insider
Stop calling the Eastern Conference the Leastern. The Pistons are the reigning NBA champions, and this year, the Eastern Conference's top two teams – Detroit and Indiana – may be the best two teams in the NBA, period.

Remember when we used to claim that the Western Conference Finals was the real NBA Finals? This season, the Eastern Conference Finals will be the series to watch. The West has gotten weaker, while the Pistons (the champs) and Pacers (the league leaders in wins last year) both got better. Add Shaquille O'Neal to the mix in Miami, and the East is as buff as it's been this century.

Let's not get carried away either. After the Pistons, Pacers and Heat, pick any team in the East that could qualify for the playoffs in the West. The Knicks? Celtics? 76ers? Nets? Please.

Chad Ford

ESPN Senior Writer