To put it mildly, NBA fans are completely up in arms about the Western Conference arms race. Complaints about LeBron James signing with the Los Angeles Lakers and Demarcus Cousins going to the Golden State Warriors have been pouring in across social media, as fans are upset more than ever about the competitive balance in the NBA. I’m here to tell you that your anger is misplaced and this season is going to be one for the ages. Here’s why:
The West will be even MORE competitive
Last season, seven teams ended the year within three games of one other, comprising the 3-9 seeds. This was one of the most exciting NBA story-lines after the all-star break. Next there could be eight! Portland has unfinished business after a great regular season and a flat playoff run, and now they’re adding a Curry brother. I know I’ll be circling the Warriors vs. New Orleans Pelicans games when the schedule comes out. The Cousins move is a lesser version of Kevin Durant leaving Oklahoma City. We’ll get more LeBron vs. Russell Westbrook and Paul George, and more LeBron vs. Gregg Popovich than ever before. Plus, there’s still Donovan Mitchell, Karl Anthony Towns and the Minnesota Timberwolves, and the four bottom seeds in the conference all had big draft nights and have been active in free agency. Oh, and you might have also heard of the 65-win Houston Rockets. In the wild West, anything can happen.
Eastern Playoff Spots Up For Grabs
Without LeBron in the East, nearly every team has the chance at making the playoffs this year. We have the Eastern powerhouses of Boston and Philadelphia, who definitely want to win a title, but everyone is already sleeping on the Toronto Raptors. With a new coach and LeBron heading West, they may be more dangerous in the playoffs now than at any other point in this era. The Indiana Pacers have upgraded from Lance Stephenson to Tyreke Evans. The Washington Wizards will have John Wall back at full strength, and the New York Knicks will hopefully get Kristaps Porzingis back sooner rather than later. Plus, the Detroit Pistons will undoubtedly be better with Dwayne Casey as their coach. The point is, out of the 15 teams in the East, at least 11 are poised to be better this coming year than last. With Lebron’s move, the bottom seeds are up for grabs.
The Finals Would Have Been More Competitive Without LeBron’s Team in 2018
This is now the biggest argument one could make against this is the status of the NBA Championship. Yes, the West has a huge advantage here, and will have an even bigger one if Kawhi Leonard goes to Los Angeles. Yet one thing I continued to say during the NBA Finals this past year was that if it were the Philadelphia 76ers or Boston Celtics matching up against the Warriors, the series would have been not only more entertaining, but more competitive. Think about it. In the Finals, the best player in the series was LeBron, and then arguably the four next best players were Warriors. If it had been the Sixers, the top four players would have been two Sixers and two Warriors, with the next three or four best players being debatable (Thompson, Redick, Saric, Green). Also, this past year alone, the competitive balance in the finals wasn’t ideal, but LeBron certainly had the chance to win a couple games.
The Warriors odds to win the title in 2019 were already at 10-11 before they acquired Cousins, meaning for every ten finals played, they would win 11. If anything, with LeBron going to the West, there is another team in the mix that could knock them off early in the playoffs. I, for one, would love to see a Sixers Championship run against the Lakers to redeem themselves from 2001, but I’d also love to see LeBron vs. Kyrie Irving in the finals, or LeBron vs. the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. There are so many new fun matchups we will get to see this year, and now there is one more team with legitimacy at the top, or at least more legitimacy than the Cavs had last year.
In my opinion, the end result of all these factors will be a more competitive NBA.
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