With LeBron signing with the Lakers this offseason, there is more reason than ever to believe that the Western Conference is vastly better than the Eastern Conference. Last year, the Heat, Bucks and Wizards, the 6th, 7th, and 8th seed respectively all wouldn’t have even made the playoffs last year if they were in the West. The team that represented the East in the Finals last year, the Cavaliers, lost their best player with Bron leaving, and are expected to trade their next best player, Kevin Love after signing him to a new contract. Long story short, the East is not the hardest conference to make the playoffs in anymore. But is it really that bad?
Even though most of the East is mediocre, it’s top-heavy, with 3 genuine Finals contenders in the Celtics, Raptors, and Sixers. The Celtics are the best we’ve seen them in years, and were a game away from the Finals last year without their 2 best scorers, Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, and also managed to retain all their key free agent pieces this year. The Raptors had the best record in the East last year and just traded for superstar Kawhi Leonard. Even though they had to trade DeMar DeRozan, Leonard is just as good of a scorer, doesn’t take as many long 2s, and is one of the best defenders in the league. The Sixers have stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons both expected to take another step forward in their development. They also have last years number one pick Markelle Fultz, who according to his trainer has perfected his shot.
Beyond these 3 teams, there are a lot of question marks, but definitely not a lack of talent. The Pacers need to show last year wasn’t a fluke, but did a good job this offseason with quality depth signings like Tyreke Evans and Doug McDermott. The Bucks have Giannis Antetokounmpo which alone will get them into the playoffs, but also brought along coach Mike Budenholzer who can hopefully lead this talented team to a higher seed than 7th. The Wizards have a healthy John Wall this year, and plenty of pieces around him but have never been able to put it together, but maybe adding gasoline to one of the most volatile locker room situations in the NBA in Dwight Howard and Austin Rivers could get them to try harder.
What many people don’t realize about the Eastern conference either is how good it will be in a couple of years. There are multiple rebuilding teams in the process of acquiring talent, like the Hawks who have Trae Young and John Collins and two 1st round picks next year. The Magic have plenty of talent in the frontcourt like Mohammed Bamba, Aaron Gordon, and Jonathan Isaac, if they could ever manage to get a point guard they could actually be a playoff team. The Knicks two picks this past draft, Kevin Knox and Mitchell Robinson shined in the summer league, and with no hope of competing this year without Kristaps Porzingis, they’re in a position to have another high pick in the 2019 Draft, to make a competitive young core and tons of cap space to come. The Nets have plenty of good young players, a progressive offense and HAVE THEIR OWN DRAFT PICK NEXT YEAR.
While the Eastern Conference is definitely the weakest we’ve ever seen it, the top teams are definitely going to be interesting to watch in the playoffs, personally I think the Celtics are going to win the Finals next year, if you’re one of my 3 loyal Amateur fans, you read my article on it, if not, get hip. The bottom teams are also poised to improve drastically over the next couple of years. The East isn’t as good as the West, but it definitely has good teams, and within a couple of years will be just as good.