Nets rising; Pacers, Sixers slipping in East

Deja vu.

Last year about this time, the Miami Heat and Detroit Pistons were the two hottest teams in basketball.

A big deadline trade catapulted one team into contention, while a slew of injuries and chemistry issues pushed several promising contenders out of the playoff picture.

One year later, very little has changed.

Antoine Walker Walker

The Heat are 19-4 since Feb. 1. The Pistons aren't far behind at 16-6. On Tuesday, the Heat's 12-game winning streak was snapped at Houston, while the Pistons' five-game run ended at Cleveland.

Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge pulled a Joe Dumars at the trade deadline, trading away expiring contracts and a first-round pick for a talented but maligned veteran,
Antoine Walker, who has catapulted them into contention in the East.

Meanwhile several of the early-season contenders – the Pacers, Cavaliers, 76ers and Magic – quietly are slipping in the East thanks to injuries, chemistry problems and lack of depth.

Who will make the playoffs? Who will be playing the lottery?

Insider took a look at the schedules and recent trends, and based on the evidence we project how things might fall out in the East.

Here's how we break it down: