The NBA West vs the Least

Staff Writer

By DYLAN MALONE

    The Warriors are good. Maybe too good.
    For every action there is an equal reaction and in sports that is on full display.
    Most specifically, the NBA has shown that owners and GMs will do what they have to do to set themselves up in the future. For most teams, it’s the distant future as the Warriors seem to have a good grasp on the present.
    But is it good for the league?
    LeBron James has made it to the last seven NBA Finals with either the Cavaliers or the Heat. The East are tired of running into the league’s best player.
    The alternative, however, is to face an entire conference full of superstars.
    Players that I would put in the top 10 of the league are mostly in the Western Conference even before the trade action in this early off-season.
    LeBron is the only player I would truly put in the top 10, but you could make an argument after his breakout season that former Indiana Pacers’ forward Paul George has cracked into that list.
    Too bad he plays for Oklahoma City now.
    The Bulls’ Jimmy Butler is in the top 20 for sure, but now he’s a Timberwolves leader with his former coach Tom Thibodeau.
    Then there’s the Warriors with Kevin Durant and Steph Curry arguably number 2 and 3 in the league depennding on what position you think impacts the game more: point guard or small forward.
    Behind them are other amazing talents like Kawhi Leonard, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and Anthony Davis (in no particular order).
    Hanging around that #10 spot I would consider Blake Griffin, Paul George, LaMarcus Aldridge, DeMarcus Cousins, Klay Thompson.
    All in the West...
    My next best player in the East, or should we call it the Least, would either be Kyle Lowry from the Toronto Raptors or Giannis Antetokounmpo from the Milwaukee Bucks and they are dangling in the top 20.
    The Cavs are certainly the team to beat in the East with the Celtics beefing up with Butler grad Gordon Hayward joining their ranks. Washington will be good behind John Wall and company, while the Raptors will try to get over their playoff hump somewhere in the top four.
    Beyond that, where in the world will the rest of the 11 teams fall?
    In such a disorderly group of teams that are expected to underachieve, there will certainly be a few surprises.
    I expect the Bucks to be another playoff team, but then who is left to take the final three spots?
    I think next season could be the year that the 76ers return to the playoffs if their young core can stay healthy for a change. They have all the pieces necessary to win 40-45 games and that’s all they’ll need in the East to get a spot.
    With Chicago and Atlanta in full blown rebuild mode, teams like Charlotte and New York could surprise with good seasons. I think that the Miami Heat will be good enough to be in the middle of the Eastern pack as well.
    The team that peaks my interest the most (for obvious reasons) are the Indiana Pacers. While they do lose Paul George and now Monta Ellis following Thursday’s waive, they do still have plenty of talent.
    They have a good amount of pieces to move around including former Hoosier Victor Oladipo who joins the team after the George trade.
    Myles Turner will continue to get better at the center position and the acquisition of Bojan Bogdanovic will stretch the floor for Indiana. Plus, this could be the year for Joe Young who has improved each season and could step in for the departed Jeff Teague.
    I’m not sure at this point which will be the better storyline: How will the dominos fall in the loaded West or who will be the best of the worst in the East.
    The NBA, even at its worst from a balanced standpoint, is still entertaining to me at its core. I look forward to 2018-19.

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