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Pistons have the playoffs locked up …

... at least, they do if you believe John Hollinger:

Hollinger’s Playoff Odds

That's from this page, which I encourage you to not only check out but also bookmark for future reference. I know some people aren't the biggest fans of Hollinger or statistical analysis in general, but I've always found him interesting, even if I don't always agree.

Personally, I happen to agree with his assessment that a playoff spot for Detroit is a foregone conclusion. I'm also confident they'll win the division, but 100% "bet my life on it" confident? This early in December? That's kind of tough, even if the second-place Pacers are playing sub-.500 ball.

Conversely, I'm intrigued by the Bulls, who Hollinger has pegged for a 13th place finish. That stands in stark contrast to what some of fans are thinking. The Bulls blog Thank You Isiah thinks Chicago will right their ship by January 25th:

I've been looking over the Bulls' upcoming schedule, and the above date is when I think the Bulls will beat the Bobcats at the United Center to reach .500 for the first time this season, at 21-21. Take a look at the East standings and you see that a .500 record gets you the 5th seed, and you'd be nipping at the heels of Toronto for home court advantage in the 1st round. Not what I'd envisioned for this season, but after this opening nightmare, I would gladly take it.

I'm more inclined to believe TYI than Hollinger at the moment (minus the part about getting home court advantage), but time will tell.

Also, in the picture above I included the first three Western teams for a reason: look at that second-to-last column on the right. Hollinger (or his formulas, to be 100% accurate, since this is supposed to be objective) is predicting the eventual champion will come out of the east. (Golden State, who Hollinger has ranked fourth, is listed as having a 3.3% percent chance.)

Granted, the East is still incredibly top heavy, but the conference will get more competitive once Cleveland and Chicago (currently ranked fourth and fifth in the Central -- and in real-life standings, mind you, not just fancy statistical ones...) get right, which has to happen sooner or later ... right?