By: Lawrence Edwards
The Eastern NBA conference has been viewed as being the weakest link in the league for some time now. It has basically been LeBron’s playground for the last few years, with the Celtics spoiling his efforts a couple of times in between. Let’s face it; the western conference has been much more competitive amongst each other, than the East has, especially in the playoffs. But I truly believe that is all coming to an end soon. In the 2016-2017 season I think we’ll see a revitalized competitiveness coming out of the eastern conference.
Last season the 8 teams from the eastern conference had a combined record of 394 – 262 compared to the west record of 417 – 239. The east was only 23 games behind the west, but with a good portion of that gap coming from GSW NBA record 73 wins. Over the course of the off-season so far we have seen some major changes in the eastern conference. The Indiana Pacers have been extremely busy adding, quality players in Al Jefferson, Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young. PG13 and the Pacers are looking to supplant the Cavs as the #1 team in the east this season and I believe they actually have a legitimate shot at doing that. Paul George has always brought his best, especially against LeBron, look for some sparks in this match up.
We also can’t forget about the moves that Chicago, New York and Boston have made. Celtics got a much needed big presence in the front court with the addition of Al Horford. Horford is truly one the few complete bigs in the NBA. He gives you scoring and rim protection down low. Last year the Celtics and the Hawks were two of the best defensive teams in the NBA and with Celtics getting the 6’10 defensive anchor from Atlanta, Boston could easily be the best defensive team in the league this season and get to at least 53 wins.
The Chicago Bulls barely missed the playoffs last year, (their record would’ve gotten them at least the 8th seed in the west last season) getting edged out by Detroit by two games. Gone are the days of the Bulls once golden child Derrick Rose. Chicago has a completely different look now. You have the new faces of Rondo, Wade and Robin Lopez there to try and get this team back to the postseason. Sure Rondo is like one of the most hated players in the league right now but you cannot deny the potential chemistry here. Rondo has always been a pass first point guard and has blessed us with some pretty sweet passes over the years. There is no reason to think Butler and Wade will not enjoy Rondo setting them up for easy looks on a nightly basis. Lopez is a young and upcoming center that should turn out to be a nice addition for Chicago and who has game that somewhat reminds me of his brother Brook. With two premier scoring options and a PG who passes the way he does, the Bulls will definitely find themselves in the post season this year.
The Knicks have been the butt of everyone’s jokes lately as the laughing stock of the NBA (Philadelphia has been just as bad if not worse but that’s another story) but something tells me they could be having a good laugh at all the doubters this season. We laughed and clowned when NY drafted KP but we all quickly ate our words once the sneakers were laced up. The point is the Knicks made some nice upgrades at key positions this off-season. Yes Derrick Rose can be considered damaged goods but he can still ball when he is on the court healthy and the addition of Brandon Jennings and Courtney Lee are two underrated signings that give the Knicks more scoring options off the bench as well as some nice rim protection with the addition of Joakim Noah.
You add all that up with fact that Toronto, Charlotte and Detroit will be looking to improve on their respective seasons then, we have the potential to see some real fireworks in the east this season. I have reason to believe that LeBron and the Cavs will not be sweeping anyone in the playoffs this season even if they go all the way to the finals again. The western conference should also watch its back. The east is tired of being viewed as weak and it’s putting a change to all that as we speak.
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