The NBA playoffs start three weeks from Sunday, and the Eastern Conference is still packed at the bottom of the bracket.
Although the East is the significantly weaker conference, there are plenty of storylines that’ll make the postseason interesting: Are the Cleveland Cavaliers the Eastern Conference favorite? Can the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks shake off their late-season swoon? Will the Chicago Bulls be healthy enough to compete for an NBA Finals bid?
Basketball is a team game, but sometimes the performance of just one player can determine the answers to questions such as the ones posed above. These X-factors can be star players with questionable injury statuses, role players with the potential to break out, inconsistent players and a host of other types of guys.
Nobody knows exactly which teams will sneak into the postseason, but let’s examine each team with a fighting chance at cracking the top eight seeds for their playoff X-factor.