With 10 games left in the regular season, the Rockets are poised to make the playoffs, but which team they will face in the first round is anybody's guess. That's because there are so many good teams in the Western Conference that 1st place and 8th place are only separated by 5 games. It's conceivable, even probable that a 50 win team will not make the playoffs for the first time ever. Today, that would be Denver, but they are only 1/2 game back of Golden State, who is only 1/2 game back of Dallas, who is... well, you get the point. Its' tough out west.
The East, on the other hand, has the two best records in the NBA and maybe the best team, but the quality dwindles fast after that. In fact, Atlanta at 8 games under .500 will probably make the playoffs. Some would say that Boston, Detroit and Orlando only have gaudy records because they play most of their games in the pitiful Eastern Conference. There may be a grain of truth to that, but having seen Boston play, they are the real deal.
My scale has always been pretty simple. Win half your games, you're mediocre. 45 wins is a good team. 50 wins is a very good team. 55 wins is excellent. 60 wins is a great team. But this year is different. An abundance of lousy teams in the East has made a couple of very good teams look great and an overabundance of excellent teams in the West has made some great teams look mediocre.