With some of the powers in the East and West now gone through the first two rounds of the playoffs, our staff chimes on whether or not the power of the NBA has shifted from the West to the East.
I don’t think the power has really shifted, but it’s evened out a bit. There are some teams that have been up-and-coming for a while for both conferences that are now here to stay. Orlando, Boston, San Antonio and Los Angeles are going downhill, while the Grizzlies, Thunder, Blazers, 76ers, Pacers and Bulls are now improved.
1 through 8 in the playoffs from now on will be very competitive, as evidenced by San Antonio’s early exit. I still think the West has a slight advantage, but it will continue to even out over the next few years.
It sure is starting to look that way. We have seen players such as Carlos Boozer, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudamire, shift from the West to the East making their respective teams stronger. With that being said, you can see East teams who have great futures while West teams are weakening.
The New York Knicks, and Chicago Bulls will be named as the cream of the crop teams in the NBA for seasons to come if they do things the right way. Teams such as the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Lakers – the most dominant of West teams of recent years – are fading away leaving other teams to fill their spot. Sure one can point to the Memphis Grizzlies as a team to fill their shoes, but Memphis isn’t on the level of East teams such as the Bulls, the Knicks, Hawks, or Heat.
Furthermore, Boston seems to be on its last legs but the aforementioned East teams look poised to replace them soon. The Pacers put a scare into the Bulls, the 76ers look to be knocking on the door as a solid East team and the Nets, with their addition of Deron Williams, are on the right track to emerge as an East power.
Out West, New Orleans looks to be off track in their future, especially seeing how Chris Paul might not wear a Hornet’s uniform with his impending free agency. Portland looks like the future is bright but after fizzling out again in the playoffs, will changes be made? As said before, the Spurs and Lakers reign is all but over, leaving Dallas which isn’t a young team. The Suns are in a rebuilding phase, as are the Rockets with the loss of Ming.
The caveat in all this is the Orlando Magic and Dwight Howard. Should Howard stay in Orlando, then the East remains strong. Should he bolt the Magic Kingdom and move out West to join the Lakers, then the West remains a power.
As of now, the future just seems brighter out East.
The West continues to be superior but there’s definitely plenty of star power out East, even in New York again, that will make this something to keep an eye in the next few years. The West has traditionally been better and this year wasn’t any different. Just look at how sub-.500 teams in the East continue to make the playoffs.
Even while the Lakers and the Spurs disappointed in the playoffs, many of the lower-seeded teams from both conferences acquitted themselves well in the first round even if teams like the Philadelphia Sixers and the New Orleans Hornets just weren’t there yet to steal an upset. More interesting to me is how these older elite teams like the Boston Celtics and Spurs plan on retooling to keep up with the younger teams like the Miami Heat, OKC Thunder and the Chicago Bulls.
Some power has shifted from the West to the East, especially at the top of the league. Boston, Miami, and Chicago are all elite teams. The Heat and Bulls will probably contend for multiple NBA titles in the coming years. Meanwhile, the top teams on the Western side, Los Angeles and San Antonio, suffered early exits and have big decisions to make with their franchises moving forward. Having said that, the West is still as deep and talented as ever. Look at the remaining teams in the Western Conference Finals – who had Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Memphis as the last three teams alive? And, what’s more, all three have played fantastic, entertaining basketball showing the depth of the West. OKC and Memphis have young teams on the rise and the West is filled with much better teams from top to bottom than the East. Portland, New Orleans, Memphis, Denver, Houston, Utah, and maybe even the Clippers and Golden State are much better than their equivalent Eastern counterparts. The West is still best.
Shifted, past tense? No. But things are evening out a bit. The Lakers and Spurs are on the decline and this might be Dallas’ last chance too. But teams like Oklahoma City, Portland, and Memphis are starting to make their rise. In the East, Miami and Chicago are replacing Boston and Orlando in the “elite” class… and teams like the Hawks and Knicks, for example, are on the rise.
The end result will be a more even spread throughout the conferences. We’re not going to see Western conference 8th seeds being vastly better than Eastern 5th seeds for a while. The top teams in each conference will be just about even as will the 8th seeds.
Just one note on the evening out of conferences: I’m glad we didn’t overreact and change playoff rules because of an era of dominance by one side. As things change, the rules would have had to change once again, and we’d be dealing with some serious confusion. Everything evens out over time. The pendulum swings no matter what the blowhards will scream. The shift has begun… and we’ll see how long it lasts before the power does swing all the way over to the East.
It is difficult to say whether the “power” has shifted from the West to the East. Top to bottom you can still argue the West is better — the eighth-seeded Grizzlies have home court over the fifth-seeded Hawks. But as far as the power teams go, the power may be in the East more. The shift, if you can call it that, probably started when the Timberwolves traded Kevin Garnett to the Celtics.
Entering the playoffs, most would probably say the true title contenders were the Bulls, Lakers, Spurs, Celtics and Heat. Maybe the Thunder sneak in there, maybe the Mavericks do. The top three in the East all legitimately could lay a claim to the title pre-postseason. The West was obviously on shaky ground because the Spurs and Lakers are gone. I think an East team is going to win the title this year and in previous years it would be much more up in the air.
Is it a complete shift? I do not believe so. But it appears, as it has been for the last few years, the East and West are much more balanced in competing for a title.