The Eastern Conference has annually been much weaker than the Western Conference in the NBA, and the 2014-15 season seems to be on the same track with the exception of two teams: the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls. There are usually a few teams that could be legitimate contenders for the conference championship in the East, but this summer has further separated the haves and have-nots.
LeBron James has assembled a team of All-Star talent in Cleveland that resembles the Avengers. His former team, the Miami Heat, had the ‘Big Three,’ but lacked much of any other support. He has made certain to ensure the same shortcomings don’t haunt him with the Cavs by recruiting proven veterans Mike Miller, James Jones and Shawn Marion, along with the existing talent in Kyrie Irving and the newly acquired Kevin Love. This team is completely loaded from top to bottom.
The Bulls have also had a very successful summer in which they’ve added the first round draft pick Doug McDermott and highly sought after big-man Pau Gasol, not to mention the return of former league MVP Derrick Rose. Chicago was able to garnish 48 wins without the presence of the All-Star point-guard this past year. The Bulls are really dangerous.
Okay, so the top two teams are obviously Chicago and Cleveland, but who’s next? The Toronto Raptors? The Washington Wizards? The Atlanta Hawks? The loss of Paul George to his horrific leg injury and departure of Lance Stephenson have taken the Indiana Pacers out of contention after reaching the Eastern Conference Finals for two back-to-back seasons. As for the rest of the conference, just shake up the mid-level teams and see where they fall. Yes, they are good teams, but they aren’t great.
The Eastern Conference has not had all of its playoff teams have at least a .500 record since the 2009-10 season. In the Western Conference, the eighth seed has been six games or more over .500 since the 2006-07 season, and there are at least five teams in the West that could potentially win the NBA Title. The San Antonio Spurs, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Golden State Warriors and the Portland Trailblazers could easily take the crown as opposed to just two legit contenders in the East.
The disparity between the conferences will continue to grow until the Eastern Conference can attract players to teams that don’t have Rose or James on them. Until then, the other 13 teams are simply stepping stones for the two top team’s path to the Conference Finals.