With a team finishing 48-34 and missing the playoffs in the Western Conference (Phoenix Suns) and team finishing 38-44 and making the playoffs in the Eastern Conference with a record of 38-44 (Atlanta Hawks), the difference between the bottom of each conference is obvious. In the NBA Finals, the San Antonio Spurs dispatched of the Miami Heat in five games and proved it isn’t very close at the top either.
Since then, two Eastern Conference teams, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls, have improved greatly. The Cavaliers have signed the game’s best player, LeBron James, and are trading for Minnesota Timberwolves’ star power forward Kevin Love. The Bulls have signed big man Pau Gasol and forward Nikola Mirotić, drafted forward Doug McDermott and have star point guard Derrick Rose returning from injury.
Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders believes the Cavaliers and Bulls are primed to challenge the Western Conference champ.
I don’t think so. I really like what the Cavaliers and Bulls did this offseason, and I think they each have a shot at winning it all. Cleveland may be the league’s most talented team on paper with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. It may take time for that group to get on the same page, but they could be very good. Chicago is loaded too, but Derrick Rose is obviously the X-Factor there. The West certainly has more potentially elite teams (the Spurs, Clippers, Thunder, Rockets, Warriors, etc.), but the East has some talent at the top.
Although there will obviously kinks to be worked out, there is no team with three players as talented as James Love and Irving. Plus, the Cavaliers have young players that can help them add even more veteran help (like a ring protector). For the Bulls, they will likely once again be one of the league’s elite defensive team – for them it’s all about keeping Rose healthy and hoping Gasol is still good enough to be a legitimate second option.
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