This week in the NBA, the Western Conference improved exponentially, mainly at the expense of the East.
LeBron James opted to join the Lakers and DeMarcus Cousins jumped aboard the Golden State freight-train, which added increased star power to an already stacked conference. However, the East still has threats in the form of the Celtics and the Sixers. Could they possibly stop the Warriors or the Lakers? Moreover, would LeBron’s exit give a larger platform for the remaining stars in the Eastern Conference to outshine the competition across the country.
It’s not all bad out east
Despite the lack of deals benefiting the Eastern Conference in star power, the exit of LeBron from Cleveland could genuinely help. This is mainly due to the fact the Conference will now need another poster boy to carry the brand on their back. Now, generally there is only room for one superstar, however, there is always room for one on each of the two conferences. So who could the next global star be?
Firstly, let’s discuss Giannis Antetokounmpo.
The “Greek Freak” has unrivalled athleticism, is a freak of nature and is somebody who many critics have hailed as the next big thing. His explosive style of play has persuaded many to believe he can totally transcend the way the game of basketball is played and if that doesn’t scream superstar, I don’t know what does.
Aside from Giannis, there is a certain Kyrie Irving who’d throw his name into the hat. Despite his first season in Boston being plagued with injury, the five-time All-Star possesses nerves of steel and is immense in big game situations. Furthermore, he has the ability to play with big personalities, considering he won a ring with LeBron James. Thus, he will have no queries sharing the ball with Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and co.
Perhaps an underdog might seek to pip the rest of the league for the top spot, and his name is Kristaps Porzingis. Unfortunately, he suffered an ACL tear in early February, 2018. However, with the right medical recovery he could truly bounce back to be the most dominant player in the league. The statistics don’t lie either, in every year since he was drafted 4th overall in 2015, Porzingis has increased his Points Per Game tally by at least 3 points every year.
What to expect come playoff time
It’s clear the runaway favourites are the Celtics.
Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward make for a formidable duo, probably the most dangerous of all in the East. Philadelphia would also be in the discussion for the best in the conference, however. They boast Rookie Of The Year, Ben Simmons, and the outspoken Joel Embiid at centre. More importantly, there are strong links that the 76ers may even acquire Kawhi Leonard from the San Antonio Spurs. The move would not only increase the interest in the East, but it would also elevate the team immensely.
With both the elite defence and shooting Kawhi would bring, the Sixers would have the potential to compete with the Warriors and the Lakers respectively.
The third franchise vouching to make it to the finals are the Toronto Raptors. They seeded first in the Eastern Conference last year and were playing exquisitely until they met LeBron and the Cavs in the Playoffs. Luckily for the Raptors, with the King gone, the Canadian giants have a legitimate claim to the throne in the East.
Don’t forget, the East still maintains strong teams in spite of the aforementioned three. Take the Indiana Pacers for example. Led by Victor Oladipo, the Pacers battled the Cavs in the Playoffs too, narrowly missing out on progression 4-3 across the series. In addition, they have an ever improving roster, especially considering they are a young team.
The East can still be fun
Although the Western Conference clearly has a steep advantage in “big name” players, the East still has benefits. The overall competitiveness on both sides of the States will increase with this NBA Offseason and the transfer of LeBron provides a larger stage for players who may have been hidden in King James’ shadow in previous years.
On the other hand, the question still remains, when does Adam Silver draw the line when it comes to teams hoarding the league’s talent, most notably the Golden State Warriors. A question which needs answered sooner rather than later.