Morgan Douglas – sports editor
I would have to look back in my memory bank to remember a time when the Eastern Conference was this strong.
For more than a decade, the NBA’s Eastern Conference was considered inferior to its Western counterpart due to a lack of depth in good teams.
Teams below 500 often found themselves in a low-seeded playoff spot in the East, as the team that had just missed the cut in the West with a better record watched with envy.
Now the East is stacked. Should the season end as of this writing, the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks would hit the road as the top five seed to start the playoffs.
The Atlanta Hawks, who made it to the Conference Finals a year ago, wouldn’t even make the playoffs. Things have changed.
For one, the Chicago Bulls are back. The author of this column has been a hidden Bulls fan since the Jimmy Butler trade in 2017, but now he’s ready to strut his stuff in red plumage again.
The Miami Heat are good. Apparently they still are. Erik Spoelstra well deserved his place among the 15 greatest NBA coaches in history list.
The Cleveland Cavaliers should be the real surprise. For the first time in his life, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert has a talented team that doesn’t include LeBron James. They are currently fourth in the conference with a 35-23 record.
Perhaps the East’s most compelling storyline comes from Ben Simmons and James Harden’s trade between the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets.
I’m not here to debate who won the trade, leave that to Stephen A. Smith and Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo. I’m here for all the petty little drama that 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 long Durant and Simmons can take the field together for the Nets, who are in desperate need of reinforcements at the moment, barely able to keep their heads above water, currently clinging to the eighth and last playoff spot in the East.
I’m not as excited to see Harden paired with Embiid in Philadelphia. I’ve seen it before. He teams 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 victory in the final? I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that to happen.