LeBron James leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers, again, for Los Angeles opened the door for the Boston Celtics to become the clear-cut favorites in the Eastern Conference. Even with speculation that LeBron might stay in Cleveland for at least another year, Boston was still the favorites in the East heading into next season.
The Eastern Conference was already considered “weak” before LeBron’s third free agency decision. I don’t even know what to call the Eastern Conference at this point. With LeBron going to the Western Conference, not only did he add another contending team in the West, but he also took out one in the East with the Cleveland Cavaliers. With Cleveland semmingly out of the title picture, I’m having a tough time thinking of any team that would compete with the Boston Celtics at this very moment.
You have the Philadelphia 76ers, who are young and poised to be great one day, but the process ended in five games back in May. The trio of Embiid, Simmons, and Fultz has the potential to be a future big-3 in the NBA, but they’re too young, inexperienced, and injury-prone to make any noise. The Celtics beat the 76ers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals without Kyrie or Hayward. Imagine what would happen next year in the playoffs if the 76ers don’t make any moves this offseason. If the 76ers trade for Kawhi Leonard, they’d make themselves much more competitive, but also give analysts a team that they’d say would compete with Boston. In reality, trading for Kawhi means trading away key members of your team for a one-year rental. If you’re the Sixers, you don’t risk hurting your team in the long run for one year of maybe a few playoffs wins. Seriously.
The Toronto Raptors have proven time and time again that they are a great regular season team, but incapable of doing anything relevant in the playoffs. It was another year of getting Toronto’s hopes up with an impressive season, but succumbing to LeBron James in the playoffs. Now that LeBron’s gone, will the Raptors find any success in the Eastern Conference? With a new coaching change and the roster mainly still intact, they can certainly make another run at it. Am I scared of them though? Never was and never will.
The Indiana Pacers are a team that shocked the NBA world last season by being pretty damn good all year. After trading Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Victor Oladipo in what was dubbed as “highway robbery,” everything actually worked out for them. Turns out that Victor Oladipo is actually really, really, really good at basketball and has the capability of becoming one of the next superstars of the NBA. With a solid cast of guys in Indiana, they have always given me a scare whenever going up against them. Indiana was actually a team I wanted to avoid in the playoffs. Not because I was afraid of losing the series, but because I know how competitive that team is and how hard they make it to move on in the playoffs. Just ask LeBron, he knows what it’s like having Indiana pushing you to seven games.
To be quite honest with you guys, the list of competitive teams in the Eastern Conference ends there for me. Sure you’ll have the Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons (maybe), and Miami Heat who should make games exciting and fun to watch, but none of those teams are touching the Celtics next season, or even the other teams I mentioned. This article isn’t even meant to sound like a biased Celtics fan acting like we’re better than everyone else.
As a basketball fan, you have to understand that this is the harsh truth about the NBA: the Eastern Conference is absolute garbage and the Celtics are simply just going to take advantage of it. LeBron did it for eight years, now it’s Boston’s turn.
Photo // nba.com