How the West has won

How the West has won
October 12
03:01 2017

The landscape of the NBA has drastically changed this off-season.  Many all-star caliber players have switched teams.  To my surprise many, have chosen to switch from the very winnable eastern conference to the loaded western conference.

Everyone knows last year Kevin Durant decided to leave Oklahoma City and join forces with Stephan Curry and the crew in Golden State.  That move helped Durant win his first NBA Championship over Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

With Golden State looking like one of the best teams of all time many believed, including myself, that the top free agents and those looking for a trade would probably attempt to join forces in the Eastern Conference where the competition is less fierce.  Well I was wrong.

Kicking things off was the trade of Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler on draft night to the Minnesota Timberwolves joining young studs Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns.  This trade immediately will make Minnesota, who missed the playoffs last year, a potential top 4 or 5 team in the Western Conference.

The Houston Rockets made a splash as well by adding all-star point guard Chris Paul to pair with James Harden to create the NBA’s best backcourt.  The Rockets were already a dangerous team offensively, now with the addition of Paul they just became that much better.

The surprise this off-season came by way of the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Russell Westbrook averaged a triple double for the entire season, the first player to do so since Oscar “Big O” Robinson did so in the 1961-62 season.  Thunder general manager, Sam Presti, pulled the steals of the decade by trading for all-stars Paul George from the Indiana Pacers and Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks while still keeping most of the core of the team.

The Thunder were able to make the playoffs last season behind the herculean effort of Westbrook.  With the addition of George and Anthony, the Thunder are now a top tier team in the West.  To me, they are the second best team in the conference behind the Warriors.  They have the necessary pieces to compete with the Warriors because of their offensive punch and athletic wings.

Presti was able to build the Thunder to title contenders a few years ago through the draft by acquiring Durant, Westbrook and Harden in consecutive drafts.  This time around, he used his savvy ways to rebuild the team through trades to create another team that has the potential to win it all.

Of course, you cannot forget about the San Antonio Spurs in the west.  They are the New England Patriots of basketball as they are always in the discussion as a championship contender.  As long as head coach Greg Popovich and Kawai Leonard are in town the Spurs will not be an easy out.  They just know how to win as evidenced by their five championships in the last 18 years.

The Warriors did not lose much from their championship team.  They kept most of their players and were able to keep key bench player Andre Iguodala.  Many believe they will be right back in the NBA Finals for a fourth straight year.  That is not a foregone conclusion with all of the talent that has migrated west.  More than likely, they will but it was not be an easy task come playoff time in my opinion.

In the east, outside of the Cavaliers and the Boston Celtics there is not much competition.  Those two teams will finish one and two but in what order is the question.  The Celtics and Cavs traded point guards this offseason. 

Kyrie Irving is now in Boston and Isaiah Thomas is now in Cleveland.  Thomas is likely on the shelf until January with a hip injury.  Once healthy, he will make the Cavs very formidable. 

Outside of those two teams, I do not think any other Eastern Conference team has a chance to make it past the second round of the playoffs; as it seems to be a collision course for the Cavs and Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals. 

Again, I was very surprised no one decided to join an up and coming team in the east.  The Wizards have a nice core with John Wall and Bradley Beal.  One more all-star with that team could make a drastic difference.

An even better choice to me would be the Milwaukee Bucks.  They have a team full of up and coming stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Thon Maker, Jabari Parker and Greg Monroe.  They also have a solid bench to compliment the starters so an established NBA star like George, Butler or Anthony would have done wonders for this team.

This season could end up with a fourth straight match up between the Cavs and the Warriors but the likelihood of that happening has dropped a little with all of the moves that have taken place this off season.  This is one of the advantages the NBA has over the NFL.  Stars moving from team to team sway the competitive balance and create intrigue all year.  This season should be a good one.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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