Lebron James’ paramount relocation to the City of Angels has unbarred the Eastern Conference and only spiked the talent in the cluttered Western Conference.
Golden State remains the favorite in their three-peat journey, but the starving West will make it everything but smooth sailing for the Splash Brothers. Teams in the East have gotten strong enough to become Eastern Finals champions for the first time in eight years. The Lebron led Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers have dominated in those eight years.
Winning championships in three of the last four years, the Warriors didn’t need any extra talent to win the trophy. Sure enough, the Golden State annexed four-time All-Star Demarcus Cousins to their already monstrous lineup.
The only thing that can keep the Warriors from their monopoly of the league is the inability to gel with Cousins once he returns midseason from his torn achilles tendon that he suffered last season. The Warriors are also aging and free agency talk surrounding Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson will be following them all season long.
The Boston Celtics are anxious to get this season going. With their all-star backcourt suffering season-ending injuries, the youthful Celtics still shined in taking LeBron to game seven in the Eastern Conference finals.
The C’s have their one of a kind point guard back to lead them to the Eastern Finals for the third straight year. Boston’s long and athletic wings will only improve as Jayson Tatum enters his second year and Jaylen Brown’s third.
They have depth at every position. Two of their players can compete for the sixth man of the year award with crafty point guard Terry Rozier and hustler Marcus Smart. Coach Brad Stevens has improved his record in each of his blossoming, five-year career.
The Celtics are the team to beat in the East, but the conference has a new face. 2014 finals MVP, Kawhi Leonard, has traded conferences to run the show in Toronto. He is undoubtedly the best two-way player in the league and will share more of the ball-handling load than he saw in San Antonio’s system.
Leonard delivered an encouraging preseason, one game scoring 17 points in only 18 minutes of action. A lot of pressure is on Kawhi as a result of Toronto having the best record in the East last year, and not delivering in the postseason.
The budding 76ers in Philadelphia finally have a full roster with Markelle Fultz, 2017’s number one pick, in the starting lineup. The reigning rookie of the year, Ben Simmons, will build off of his stellar first campaign alongside Joel Embiid, expecting to be recognized as the best big man in the league.
The Indiana Pacers will make some noise again this year if Victor Oladipo can remain the top shooting guard in the East. Indiana’s own showed out at the Team USA sessions this past summer following their game seven loss to Cleveland. Myles Turner now in his fourth year is looking to have the breakout season that has been expected of him from the organization.
Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo is hoping to be the new face of the East. He terrorizes every team’s frontcourt as the NBA has never seen a specimen like him. They hope to piece together a season that will take them beyond the first round of the playoffs, a result they’ve seen the past two seasons.
The remaining teams in the East have not had a considerable amount of talent added to their roster. The team that has not made the deep run that they’ve been desperately hoping for are the Washington Wizards.
They have gotten better at the Center position to run the pick and roll with the speedy John Wall. The addition of veteran, Dwight Howard, adds athleticism and a league rebounding leader.
Los Angeles Lakers:
The jumble of teams to make the top eight spots for the playoffs has only gotten tougher. Lebron is at the helm to lead the new era of Laker basketball with a number of recognizable veterans. The new additions of Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson and Javale Mcgee will mentor the young and talented core the Lakers have.
The Lakers are promising with the best player in the world having a lot of pressure taken off of him. Used to having a team full of specialists, he has never played with an athletic lineup like the Lakers, who got out into the fast break as if they were running suicides in their preseason matchups.
The Rockets were one hamstring away from closing out the Warriors in last year’s Western Conference Finals as Chris Paul’s series ended in his usual fashion of unfortunate injuries in the playoffs.
The Rockets free agent bonus, Carmelo Anthony, can flourish in Coach Mike D’antoni’s system of isolation and as many threes as possible. James Harden is a favorite to go back to back as MVP of the Association. They will contend for the championship coming off their best record in franchise history.
Oklahoma City Thunder:
The race for the top eight spots in the West will be incredibly tight. Oklahoma City’s backcourt possesses two marquee names in the league but lack of surrounding talent. The triple-double machine, Russell Westbrook, is not 100 percent entering the season after an operation on his right knee.
Utah Jazz and Minnesota Timberwolves:
The Utah Jazz are hoping to surprise again, but they only added 21st overall pick Grayson Allen to their roster. Minnesota has a lot of questions surrounding their team after Jimmy Butler’s bombastic episode in his first practice.
The Denver Nuggets were only a game behind from missing the playoffs last year. The young backcourt will advance and all-star Paul Millsap is back from his wrist injury. They have also added Isaiah Thomas as the point guard to prove his place amongst the top scorers again.
New Orleans Pelicans:
The window for the Pelicans is getting smaller as MVP candidate, Anthony Davis, enters his last contracted year in New Orleans.
Portland Trail Blazers:
The two guards in Portland thrived last year, grabbing the third spot in last years regular season standings and Damian Lillard being named first team all-NBA. The Trail Blazers did not make any noticeable moves in their roster to compete with the tougher Western Conference.
The 2018-19 NBA season has a list of plot lines to follow. The Eastern Conference is wide open with the departure of Lebron James. The wild west contains the most talented rosters and will feature thrilling games night after night.
Wesley Harris can be reached at [email protected] and @flacko_flame on twitter.