17
Aug
09

Is the Eastern Conference Stronger Than the West?

Garnett

Since the ’98-’99 season, the Western Conference has produced the eventual NBA Champion 8 times in 11 seasons. Only Detroit in ’04, Miami in ’06, and Boston in ’08 have won an NBA title from the East. In addition, the West has just been a deeper conference from #1 through #8 from teams making the playoffs. Case in point being Phoenix last season winning 46 games and missing postseason play where 46 wins would have been the 5th seed in the Eastern Conference. Whether it was parity or good competition, the East’s final #5 through #12 seeds were constantly in flux right until the regular season finale, with the final 3 spots finishing with record of .500 or under. The West’s top seeds beat up on the bottom teams within the conference as evidence of their conference records and that the #10 – #15 teams all had winning percentages below 36%.

The ’09-’10 season should see a swing in power to the East. Through player movement in free agency, prime talent returning from injuries, or young nucleuses maturing, the East could have upwards of 6 teams winning 50+ games. Boston, Cleveland, Orlando, Toronto, Atlanta, and Washington are all capable of reaching the 50 win plateau.

Boston, Cleveland, and Orlando should be legitimate title contenders through free agent acquisitions. Boston has now has the “Big 4″ for teams to contend with since adding Rasheed Wallace to the ’08 Championship trio of Garnett, Pierce, and Allen, along with budding star Rajon Rondo, who may challenge for an All-Star spot. Cleveland has added “Shaq Diesel“, “The Big Cactus”, or whatever O’Neal, the 7 foot, 4 time NBA Champion calls himself these days along with a slew of new supporting players to add to a team that won 66 games and had the best record in the league. Orlando chose addition by subtraction by choosing not to resign Hedo Turkoglu and bringing in Vince Carter, an 8 time All-Star from New Jersey, to a team that advanced all the way to the Finals last season.

The second tier teams in the East, Washington, Atlanta, and Toronto, have improved in different ways to almost certainly reach 50 wins as well. If healthy, the Wizards could vie for a #4 seed since they have made a decision to win now by trading their draft selections to Minnesota for a few good role players to compliment a talented trio of Jamison, Butler, and the oft injured Arenas. Toronto has two reasons for trying to improve in the standings. The Raptors have brought in Orlando Magic castoff Turkoglu and a few supporting players to try and move from mediocrity to contender and to persuade 2010 possible free agent Chris Bosh, to stay North of the border. Atlanta kept it’s young but talented nucleus intact for another run by resigning veteran Mike Bibby to be paired with newly re-upped Marvin Williams, Joe Johnson, and talented big men Josh Smith and Al Horford.

Miami, Philadelphia, and Chicago, while mired in mediocrity, have done little to this point to improve on their near .500 records and should be in the mix for the final two playoff spots with a noticeable dropoff with the rest of the East’s bottom tier teams.

Out West, only San Antonio and the LA Lakers are legitimate title contenders. The Lakers essentially return the same roster as last season’s championship squad with the exception of another adding by subtracting scenario. The Lakers allowed Trevor Ariza to defect to Houston while recruiting former Defensive Player of the Year, Ron Artest to Hollywood which is an obvious upgrade. San Antonio may now boast of having the deepest and most talented roster in the league by adding one of the NBA’s all around talents in Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess to future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, and explosive guards, Parker and Ginobili. The West’s top two have improved to a greater degree than the rest of the conference and should separate themselves accordingly.

Although other Western teams are good, they aren’t on par with the NBA’s top contenders or even some of the second tier teams of the East. Denver through experience and veteran leadership, and Portland with their plethora of future young stars will hopefully prove me wrong by season’s end. The Denver Nuggets proved they are close by advancing all the way to the Western Finals last season and will try to improve after adding depth to an already talented roster through the draft. Although Portland, who with the addition of floor general Andre Miller should take some of the pressure off of the underrated and newly extended, Brandon Roy, are probably still a year or two away but would like to improve on their 54 wins and #4 seed last year.

In my opinion, the teams out West will see a drop off in wins after the top 4 teams. In the lead for the #5 seed should be the Dallas Mavericks. By resigning their on-court leader in Jason Kidd and bringing in Shawn Marion and other sharpshooters to be paired with Nowitzki, Terry, and Howard, the Mavs should be again be a very potent offensive quad but even things out by not playing much defense. New Orleans, while having arguably the best point guard in the league in CP3, better scorers in Doug West, and now having one of the best defensive big men in Okafor, are hamstrung by finances and will be hard pressed to duplicate their 49 wins last season. The consistently good Utah Jazz may have a decrease in wins depending on where they will undoubtedly dump their talented but unhappy leading scorer, Carlos Boozer and who or what they get back for him.

Two of the annual playoff participants in past seasons, Houston and Phoenix, should experience a major decline in wins because of injuries and player defections through free agency. This could create a logjam for the final few playoff spots which is similar to what the East has experienced the past couple of years. Young and talented squads like Golden State, Oklahoma City, and even the LA Clippers may contend for a spot in the postseason.

For the first time in a long while, I look forward to this wide open NBA season since so many teams have improved and have a shot at the title, especially in the Eastern Conference. I just wish my 76ers could compete with the big boys. Well, as long as we beat the Knicks……..!

lebron

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2 Responses to “Is the Eastern Conference Stronger Than the West?”


  1. August 19, 2009 at 2:37 am

    I feel Utah and Dallas are stronger than Atlanta and Toronto. Pairing up with Kidd will allow Marion to utilize his athleticism. Josh Howard had a disappointing season and should be back on form. I believe Millsap is an very adequate starting PF and if Boozer does go, the Jazz will get something back. You are discounting Sloan’s coaching ability.

  2. 2 amoll34
    August 19, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Very good points. I feel Dallas should be very good offensively but defensively…….the compete opposite. Jerry Sloan is an excellent coach and always finds a way to get the Jazz motivated and in the playoff chase. Although Milsap is a good backup, he definately isn’t as good as Boozer, which is all but certain to be gone. Your right, they need to get East last season. When you look up and down their roster, they have alot of good players. Thanks for the comment.


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About the Author:

Allen Moll is an avid NBA and College Basketball fan who watches and studies games religiously and coaches youth basketball in his native Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania. Allen also writes for thehoopdoctors.com, Bleacherreport.com, and UpperDeckblog.com.

Favorite teams include everything Philly, like Sixers, Eagles, Phillies, Villanova , St. Joe's , Hoops, LaSalle, and Lehigh University Hoops.

Contact info: mollallen@yahoo.com

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