Today: May 29, 2024

NBA East – Opinion Column

Morgan DouglasSports Editor

I would have to look back in my memory bank extensively to remember a time when the Eastern Conference was this strong. 

For over a decade, the Eastern Conference in the NBA has been considered inferior to its Western counterpart due to a lack of depth in good teams. 

Below 500 teams would often find their way into a low-seeded playoff spot in the East as the team who just missed the cut in the West with a better record looked on in envy. 

Now, the East is stacked. If the season ended as of this writing, the reigning NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks would be hitting the road as a five seed to start the playoffs. 

The Atlanta Hawks, who made it all the way to the Conference Finals one year ago would not even be in the playoffs. Things have changed. 

For one, the Chicago Bulls are back. The writer of this column has been a Bulls fan in hiding ever since the Jimmy Butler trade back in 2017, but now he is ready to strut about once again in red plumage. 

The Miami Heat are good. They seemingly always are. Erik Spoelstra was well-deserving of his spot on the recent 15 greatest NBA coaches in the history list. 

The Cleveland Cavaliers would have to be the real surprise. For the first time in his life, Cavs’ owner Dan Gilbert has a talented team that does not include LeBron James. They are currently fourth in the conference with a 35-23 record. 

Perhaps the most compelling storyline in the East stems from the Ben Simmons for James Harden trade between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Brooklyn Nets. 

I am not here to debate who won the trade, leave that for Stephen A. Smith and Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo. I am here for all the petty little drama NBA players love to stir up. Specifically, Kevin Durant, who has spent much of the past five years debating with eggs on Twitter. 

It will be interesting to see how soon Durant and Simmons can take the court together for the Nets, who are in desperate need of some reinforcements right now, barely able to keep their heads above water, currently clinging to the eighth and final playoff spot in the East.  

I am not as excited to see Harden paired up with Embiid in Philly. I have seen it before. He is teamed up with half a dozen future Hall-of-Famers to no avail. Harden and Dwight Howard. Harden and Chris Paul. Harden and Russell Westbrook. Harden, Durant and Kyrie Irving. 

How about Harden and a finals win? I would not hold my breath waiting for it to happen. 

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