IS THE LEASTERN CONFERENCE GETTING LEASTER??
Four eastern conference teams have above a .500 winning percentage against Western conference teams this season. Four! When you look out west they have 9 teams that have above a .500 winning percentage against Eastern conference teams.
At the beginning of this season Paul Millsap made the decision to leave the Hawks and sign with the Nuggets. The Hawks are clearly tanking, and although Millsap did miss time with the Nuggets, they do have him back and are fighting for a spot in the Western conference playoffs.
Paul wasn’t the only big name to leave the East. Paul George and Jimmy Butler both were traded from their respective teams. The Bulls were left in shambles and a glimmer of hope with some young talent. The Pacers on the other hand have found a potential franchise star in Victor Oladipo.
Even when a big name in Gordon Hayward left the Jazz in the West for the Celtics in the East this summer, the Jazz still drafted a franchise player of their own in Donovan Mitchell. It really seems like the East can’t catch a break. You could easily argue that 7 of the 10 best players in the league are all playing for Western conference squads.
With the playoffs coming up everyone will be suspecting whoever wins the West to be the team to win the championship. Between lack of talent and injury plagued teams the East won’t stand a chance against the favored representatives out West. Or so we think..
We play the games for a reason. The East still has Lebron James. These 2 arguments for the Eastern conference having a shot may be considered by some as a cop out. But, even if the East doesn’t stand a chance this year I still wouldn’t count them out for years to come.
Even if Lebron were to head out west in the off-season I would still argue that the Eastern conference has a bright future. The West has plenty of talent. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not sure if the East can compete with the talent for quite some time if they lose Lebron. But what the West doesn’t have is the Celtics and the 76ers.
Between Boston and Philadelphia it is really difficult to imagine the East continuing to be called names such as “the leastern conference”. Boston somehow manages to grab a top 10 pick almost every year. They have rising stars in Jaylen Brown & Jayson Tatum. Even the C’s current stars, Kyrie (26) and Hayward (28), still have a few years before they’ll start a downward trend. Don’t even get me started on what this team could look like if they were able to steal Anthony Davis from New Orleans.
It doesn’t seem possible to be in a much better position than Boston. Philadelphia isn’t afraid to take the challenge. A core of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, and Markelle Fultz may be the beginning of the new kings of the east. We haven’t seen much from Markelle Fultz this season. Without Fultz the 76ers are still in safe hands with Simmons lobbing the ball to Embiid. Embiid is age 24 and Simmons on 21.
The 76ers and Celtics were both able to manage a winning percentage against Western foes this year. If these teams are able to stay healthy (especially the sixers) then we may be looking at a new Eastern look. Pay attention these playoffs and see what some of these young guys can do. With both teams missing a star or two for some or all of the playoffs we’ll get to see even more of how valuable these guys have been all season long.