The lull that is Post All-Star Break is coming to an end, and the final stretch toward the playoffs is upon us. While the top three teams in the East (Cavs, Raptors, and Celtics) have all established themselves as likely locks, the rest of the seeds are up for grabs. Six teams are all within four games of each other looking for as high as the 5th seed in the playoffs, meaning some people aren’t going to make the cut. While making the cut and being swept in the first round by Cleveland isn’t all that much to look forward to, there’s always something to strive for in the NBA. However, there are some teams that are fit for that ending more than others. These are the teams that Tyronn Lue would be blessed to see in the first round.

Chicago Bulls

“Let’s dispel once and for all with this fiction that Fred Hoiberg doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing. Fred Hoiberg is undertaking a systematic effort to change this basketball team, to make the Bulls more like the rest of the championship contenders…”

…is what Chicago Bulls General Manager Gar Forman might say in response to criticism surrounding the Bull’s lacklustre performance as of this season. Fred Hoiberg is trying to change the Bulls to the Chicago Warriors, but he unfortunately has neither the NBA experience nor the players to do so (Although, not many people thought that about Steve Kerr). A majority of the Bulls’ talent exists in their big men (Gibson, Noah, Gasol, Mirotic, Portis) alongside their newest franchise miracle in Jimmy Butler. Paired with the inconsistency of Rose, the team can’t seem to find its identity this season.

Chicago has no star to guard Cleveland’s Big Three, leaving a literal lane for LeBron to charge down and score as much as he wants (Butler tries, like many). Chicago is in for a rebuild, Noah will most likely be leaving, as will Pau, and with a young star like Butler to build around, there’s reason to be confident that Chicago will eventually return to Eastern supremacy once again. That being said, right now, the Cavs have their number and would at most drop one game due to playing down to Chicago’s level, as they’ve done so this season

Charlotte Hornets

The Cavs dropped a game to Charlotte back about a month ago, breaking LeBron’s 16-game winning streak against the franchise. Regardless, in a seven-game series, it’s unlikely Charlotte would pull any surprises. Charlotte competing this year is a shock. The team lost Al Jefferson to injury and then suspension. MKG who is clearly the star of that team went down early and has recently fallen again. Even Kemba Walker has been forced to share minutes with Jeremy Lin, who’s made it in the NBA (Congrats, that’s linsane!).

What might make Charlotte an interesting matchup with Cleveland isn’t that the Cavs can take advantage of the banged up team, but that the Hornets are very similar to the Cavs when it comes to the team’s physiology. Undersized shooting guard in a point guard’s body, but anyone would take Kyrie over Kemba any day. Energy big man who grabs boards and can hit a three, Love beats out Frank the Tank nine times out of 10. Thompson or Zeller? Hawes or Mozgov? The list goes on. The Cavs have little trouble thrashing these off-brand title pretenders healthy, without MKG it’s all but assured that this series would be a sweep.

Atlanta Hawks

I actually really liked last year’s Atlanta Hawks, because they proved that even without a superstar, a combination of talented role players, a good coach and strong chemistry could go far in the NBA. What I didn’t realize was how talented these players were, and how much of an impact losing DeMarre Carroll would have. The Hawks sit in the 6th seed, only about 2.5 games back from the 8th seed, so a drop is feasible. These Hawks aren’t bad by any means, Al Horford is a top-five center in the NBA, a rising Dennis Schroder and the combination of role-players with mini-Gregg Popovich should, in theory, still preform. But when you look at the Hawks when they come to play Cleveland, something is missing.

The drive they had last year isn’t there. Perhaps being swept in the Eastern Conference Finals by a lower seeded team was a real blow to the pride and confidence of the team; or maybe it truly is the loss of Carroll who brought energy and intensity to the team in a similar way Draymond Green does with the Golden State Warriors. What is clear is that Cleveland could easily do away with the starless Atlanta team if they find themselves falling as low as eighth.

Washington Wizards

“But…But… These guys were on your “Worst Possible Matchups list!”

How can a team be both a favorable matchup, as well as something to try and avoid? Again, on any given night, the Wizards can be one of two teams. Cleveland proved on March 4th that they wouldn’t be fooled by John Wall’s trickery again. Just as Cleveland is often ragged on for being soft, so is Washington. Their starting backcourt is injury prone, Beal already losing half of the season. Nene is just a more effective Kendrick Perkins, and Markieff Morris, while a great player even considered by the Cavs, still gets dominated by LeBron at the four.

The Wizards are worse than they were last year, and while they decide if they want to rebuild or compete, their current level of play shows they’re doing neither.