While I’ve been writing articles comparing the Los Angeles Clippers to other teams in the Pacific Division, I’ve re-realized something — the Western Conference still has better teams with more talent than the Eastern Conference.
I’ve only written match up posts on three teams: the Los Angeles Lakers, the Golden State Warriors and the Phoenix Suns, and I’ve already came to this conclusion. Who knows what else could come to mind as we venture through the league (stay tuned, the Sacramento Kings and possibly the top team from the Northwest Division will publish later today).
The Lakers took Dwight Howard from the Eastern Conference, along with Antwan Jamison and Jodie Meeks. Meeks may seem irrelevant but role players who can come off the bench and score 10 points a night seem to be rare these days.
Andrew Bogut, a top-five center when healthy, was traded to the Warriors at the trade deadline last season. Then Golden State grabbed Harrison Barnes in the draft. Barnes has the athletic ability and basketball IQ to become an All-Star — time will tell. Package them around Stephen Curry, David Lee and Klay Thompson, and the Warriors are a scary team.
Phoenix grabbed Kendall Marshall in the draft, who could very well be the next Steve Nash or Mark Jackson and stayed within the Western Conference with their pick-ups of Luis Scola and Michael Beasley.
Speaking of the draft, the New Orleans Hornets’ took Anthony Davis (duh) with the first selection of the 2012 NBA draft and then the Sacramento Kings took Thomas Robinson with the fifth pick. I still think Robinson is going to be the best player out of this draft when we look back in five years.
I’ve spoke about the Clippers adding Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford and Grant Hill many times because I think the Clips are the deepest team in the league. Then they added Matt Barnes to solidify my statement.
Sure, last season, the Eastern Conference (the New York Knicks) stole Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire. But in all honesty, the Denver Nuggets won the trade with the Knicks because they’ve been a playoff team with high upside while the Knicks have been a laughing matter, an easy first-round out. Stoudemire looked broken last season and Anthony continues to be a team cancer because he is a me-first guy who chucks his team into losses.
The Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics have great players and are a challenge to any Western Conference team.
The Chicago Bulls have a top point guard in Derrick Rose — who might not play until mid-way through the season as he rehabs from knee surgery –, an All-Star in Luol Deng and maybe a soon to be All-Star in Joakim Noah. But injuries ruined last season and the salary cap has forced them to lose their depth and package scrubs around the stars.
I’m no longer counting the Bulls as a power team.
Besides Miami and Boston, the rest of the top 10 teams in the NBA could all very well come from the west: Lakers, Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Dallas Mavericks, San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets and the Memphis Grizzlies.
Next to these seven teams, the Eastern Conference looks super weak.
The Philadelphia 76ers gained Andrew Bynum, but who knows how the team is actually going to play since Andre Iguodala, an NBA elite defender, is in Denver and Lou Williams, the Sixth Man of the Year and leading scorer last season, is an Atlanta Hawk.
Atlanta brought in Williams but then lost Joe Johnson to the Brooklyn Nets. Williams is behind Anthony Morrow on the depth chart and the Hawks have Kyle Korver as a starting small forward. Korver is not a starter in the NBA.
The Hawks like the Nets have some talent, but the pieces don’t seem to mesh into winning basketball. At least not winning in the terms of playing a power team in the west. Don’t get me wrong, I like Deron Williams, Gerald Wallace and Johnson, but this isn’t a legit big three in terms of winning playoff series against the best of the best and they don’t have great role players around them besides Kris Humphries. Brook Lopez could be a beast, but he hasn’t stayed healthy to this point in his career.
If he can, the Nets could very well move into the Miami and Boston group because Lopez is an All-Star level player.
But that’s it. There isn’t another team that I’d even consider to move in Class A. Not even the Indiana Pacers, who looked strong last season, but didn’t do anything to bolster their lineup in the off-season.
Similar to seasons past, the Western Conference has multiple dominant teams with four or five that could legitimately win a ring, while the east only has a few. It never hurts to have LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh on the same team.
The problem is, the rest of the conference is rather week and doesn’t stand much of a chance this season except against the rest of the teams in the east. The Cleveland Cavaliers are able to beat the Orlando Magic and vice-verse. But when playoff time comes, they knock each other off and two teams get beat by Miami and Boston. This isn’t very engaging basketball to me because we already know who is going to win.
I would put my life savings on the Denver Nuggets — finished sixth in the west last season — against any team in the east besides Boston and Miami in a seven game series.
This of course says everything about the competition in the west and the lackadaisical rosters in the east.