raffy - Beasts in the East
RAFFY LEDESMA

Overnight, there is now more parity in the NBA with the exodus of stars to Eastern Conference teams. Of course, this was more than offset by the creation of two new super teams in Los Angeles. Anthony Davis joined LeBron James while newly-crowned Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard made a power move of his own by convincing the Clippers to trade for Paul George.

In the past fifteen years, Western Conference teams have lorded it over the NBA with top-heavy franchises such as the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers. Over the period, the West won 9 out of the last 15 titles. This would have been more if not for LeBron James and his own super teams in Miami and Cleveland winning 3 titles.

With the Golden State Warriors a shadow of its former self, the NBA is wide open and several Eastern Conference teams are poised to dominate. Here are the beasts in the east:

1) Philadelphia 76ers – The team will boast of a starting line-up that includes Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid, and Al Horford. This will be a monster defensive team that will dominate the perimeter and the interior including rebounds. In the process, however, they lost J.J. Redick and Jimmy Butler. Redick is a knockdown shooter that made it easier for Simmons and Embiid to operate while Butler is a slasher who can create his own shot. They still have depth problems but this team will certainly compete.

2) Brooklyn Nets – The Nets pulled the biggest coup of the offseason by snagging Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. Combined with their young core and organizational culture, the Nets are well-placed to dominate in the next 2 to 3 years. The big question really if the team can get chemistry between two alpha stars who are bringing with them their own emotional baggage. Irving’s leadership skills are in question after he failed miserably to bring the Celtics to the promised land. Durant, meanwhile, is quite sensitive to criticism. Additionally, he is recovering from a career-altering Achilles injury which means he will most likely be out next season.

3) Milwaukee Bucks – The league’s best regular season team lost its third-best player Malcom Brogdon in restricted free agency. They likewise let go of stretch 4 Nikola Mirotic who went back to Europe. The Bucks signed the brothers of Brook Lopez and Giannis Antetokounmpo in return and retained Khris Middleton and George Hill. The Bucks are still in the mix but are slightly weaker. This may be bad news since Giannis is about to enter his prime and will be a free agent in 2021. The Bucks need to surround him with more talent now.

4) Boston Celtics – Boston lost Kyrie Irving but immediately landed All-Star Kemba Walker. Walker and Irving’s statistics are quite similar but the former’s advantage is that he is well-liked by everyone and is reputedly a good locker room guy. The biggest loss for Boston is Al Horford. The Celtics refused to pay Horford long-term given his age. They likewise lost Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier. The team can now begin with a clean slate but their championship aspirations may be closed for now.

raffyrledesma@yahoo.com



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