Why We Should be Talking About the Eastern Conference

So the San Antonio Spurs signed Lamarcus Aldridge and David West.

So the Mavs signed Wesley Matthews and almost signed Deandre Jordan.

And so the Clippers signed Paul Pierce, traded for Lance Stephenson and won Deandre Jordan back in an all-night slumber party.

Yes, that is all pretty amazing, but while the the Western Conference has been shifting around and going crazy, the teams in the Eastern Conference have been quietly building their playoff teams and perhaps, putting themselves in a position to provide a more competitive balance this season.

The Obvious

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

While LeBron hasn’t signed just yet, there isn’t any doubt that he’s returning to Cleveland and staying for good. Tristan Thompson and the organization are said to have made progress towards completing a deal, and once that’s done, LeBron will sign. Additionally, Kevin Love signed a hefty extension with Cleveland and along with Kyrie Irving, should return healthy. They’ve brought back Mo Williams and have a movable piece in Brendan Haywood. It doesn’t look like they’ll be bringing J.R. Smith back, which is a plus in my opinion. They put up a fight without two of their three best players in the NBA Finals. Beware.

MIAMI HEAT

I spoke about this last week, but in addition to retaining Goran Dragic, Luol Deng opting in, and drafting Justise Winslow, Miami managed to keep Dwyane Wade (20 million, but only for one year, mind you) and recently picked up Gerald Green, another low risk grab that could beef up their guard play down the line. With Bosh, Whiteside, and McRoberts, they have little need for Birdman (who is on the trading block), and with Dragic, Wade, Winslow, they can trade either Napier or Chalmers for little and dump salary.  Their current starting lineup of Dragic-Wade-Winslow-Bosh-Whiteside is potentially the second best lineup in the East. Add the likes of Deng, Green, and McRoberts coming off the bench… this is a team poised to face off with LeBron and company in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Not as Loud, but Still Nice

MILWAUKEE BUCKS

Another one I mentioned last week, but after the Greg Monroe signing, everyone seemed to stop talking about them. They recently grabbed Greivis Vasquez from Toronto, an incredibly underrated shooting guard, and again, have Jabari Parker coming back this season. Don’t ignore the Bucks.

TORONTO RAPTORS

I’m not entirely sure, as I wrote before, but I still like the move to grab Demarre Carrol. They recently added Luis Scola to their roster (another move I’m not sure about), who can add a bit of a mid-range game and defense to that team that was absolutely blitzed by the Wizards last year. This team is more of a wait and see.

The Slow but Shrewd

NEW YORK KNICKS

I was laughing at them last week, but some of the moves they’ve made recently are really interesting. I really like the pick up of Robin Lopez, and big who isn’t as offensively skilled as his twin brother, but is the better defender of the two. Additionally they made bargain deals with both Afflalo, a veteran guard that can provide scoring from the perimeter, and Kyle O’Quinn, a three-year power forward with plenty of potential to become a solid big in the league. There are still questions about Porzingis, but with an experience big like Lopez there to teach him, my main concern really is: Will Porzingis learn to hate mascots the same way Robin does?

I still believe in Derrick Williams. I think a two year deal is a good grab for New York, and between he and O’Quinn, they should be able to find a stable four that will allow Melo to play the three the way he wants to. They still have their draft pick, Jerian Grant, who was stellar at Notre Dame.

BROOKLYN NETS

They retained Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young, which many didn’t think they would, so at that, they already secured a personal win for free agency. Then they grabbed small low risk contracts of Shane Larkin and Thomas Robinson. Two players who may not prove to be stars, but will do exactly what the Nets need and provide some help on the wings. The duo of Williams and Larkin at the point guard isn’t a bad one to have, and I believe the Nets may surprise some people will how well they do throughout the season. Then, just today, they signed former Laker (and career 38% three point shooter) Wayne Ellington to replace the loss of Alan Anderson.

Despite his ridiculous contract, I don’t think the Nets should trade Joe Johnson. I think their core of Williams, Johnson, Young and Lopez isn’t a bad one to have, no matter how much it costs for now, and with the smaller low risk contracts they’ve added to support that core, I think the Nets have quietly had a good off season.

WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Last week I mentioned that I was a little concerned about Washington’s inactivity following Pierce’s decision to join the Clippers. Since then, they’ve traded for reliable veteran Jared Dudley (1 year remaining) and signed contracts with Alan Anderson (1 year) and Gary Neal (1 year), two guards who can offer help on the perimeter defensively, as well as hit the three point shot. I love these moves because having a string of perimeter defenders is what helped the Warriors defeat the Cavaliers in this year’s Finals, and acquiring all of these one year contracts (in addition to knowing Nene only has one year left) means the books will be wide open for the Wizards to go after Kevin Durant next summer. This is smart, diligent management by Washington’s front office. Guaranteed top-four team in the East next year.

CHARLOTTE BOBCATS

After getting a big WHIFF on their Lance Stephenson signing, they managed to trade him for Matt Barnes and Spencer Hawes (who was a whiff in his own right, but I say Doc Rivers had a hand in that). Last night, during the DeAndre Jordan slumber party disaster, they managed to grab Jeremy Lin (also expected to sign with the Mavs), who will fit really well behind Kemba Walker. Back when they had Josh McRoberts, the Charlotte (then Bobcats) managed a payoff appearance. This year Spencer Hawes can be that McRoberts type big and Matt Barnes gives them much more consistency at the three than did Stephenson. Oh, and did I mention that they drafted Frank Kaminsky? Another stretch big that’s so damn offensively polished he helped end one of the more impressive winning streaks in college basketball last year? If he can get a hold on defense, and you can sub him in for Hawes. Oh, man. This Charlotte team is going to be fun.

The Inactive, and Should Be Worried

CHICAGO BULLS

They didn’t do anything except retain Jimmy Butler on a five-year max deal, a smart move, and resigned Aaron Brooks and Mike Dunleavy. The Bulls will be a playoff team next year, and I expect Rose to be healthy, but they are too damn prideful. Don’t be surprised if they lose in the first round. This team isn’t good enough.

 

It seems like I may have just rattled off every team and summarized what they’ve done, but that’s my point. The Eastern Conference was a serious free agent player this year, and should make for some great playoff series. Despite what the Vegas odds say, there is no guarantee that the Cavaliers will be representing the Eastern Conference, and even if they do, they’ll have the likes of Washington or Miami to deal with on the way.

 

*Shout out to Boston for grabbing David Lee
*Shout to Indiana for grabbing Monta, but the Hibbert trade with L.A. doesn’t seem like a for sure thing anymore.

 

 

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