Friday, August 3, 2007

East vs. West

Ray Allen/Kevin Garnett/Rashard Lewis/Zach Randolph/Jason Richardson

If Jason Richardson could play point, that would be one heck of a starting line-up. These are the names of the top players that have moved to the east coast this offseason. Sure there has been some players going west like Grant Hill/Morris Peterson/Steve Francis/Darko Milicic/Al Jefferson but I think it's obvious that this offseason has seen the Eastern Conference take a large step up. Even if the Trailblazers and the Sonics got the best players in the draft this year, it was a very deep draft. Atlanta and Philly and the Bucks are also teams that will benefit from the selections they made. But even though the East has improved, the West is still the best with out a doubt. Until the East can produce a team that is better then ether the Spurs/Suns or Mavs, how can they even come close to being considered equal? When the 4th best team in a conference (the Jazz) MIGHT be better then the first place team in the other conference, that shows that no matter what has happened, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done.

So let's take the Jazzs as the 4th place team in the west. Obviously the Spurs/Mavs/Suns have not changed rosters at all so it's safe to assume they will be just as good next year as they were this past year. What teams in the East can we comfortable say would win in a 7 game series against the Jazz?
Raptors - I hope the Raps can, and I wouldn't put it past them to improve to that level come the end of the season BUT I will say no...for now.
Boston - Can Boston with just three players? If healthy, maybe. But to beat the strong Jazz team, you need more then 3. So I am going to say No.
Detroit - I would have thought yes until I saw Detroit lose to the Cavs. That was just embarrassing. And that is the reason why I am going to say yes for Detroit taking out the Jazz. I do believe that the lazy attitude of the last few years will be gone next year because Detroit does have pride and they lost some of that going down to Cleveland. Look for a hungry Detroit team.
Heat - Well they need to be heathy. And we need to see who else they add. If Jason Williams is healthy, and Shaq is on a roll that will make them tougher. But no.
Bulls - Yes.
Cavs - Hhahaha...No
Wizards/Nets/Magic - No

So Detroit and the Bulls. Is Detroit better then the Spurs/Suns/Mavs? No. Is the Bulls? No. Maybe with more experience the Bulls will have a chance, but not right now. So still, even with these new players moving to the East, the West still holds the top three teams with it's forth best putting up a fight against the East top 2.

We do though need a more balanced structure. I know there is talk out there in regards to just ditching the conference thing come playoff time and just seed all 14 teams. That is not a horrible idea, but it is still not the preference. Having conferences and having divisions does create rivalry between the teams and having arch-rivals is one of the keys to making a sucessful franchise. Even in the dark days of the "relocate to Buffalo" year in Toronto Raptor history (between the trading Vince year and Lord Colangelo taking over year) we as a city still came out to watch passionately the Nets vs Raps games. The franchise needed that atmosphere at least twice a season. The game were you wouldn't miss. The game were you were jacked up all day before tip off. Make no mistake about it, the New Jersey Nets are the rivals for the Toronto Raptors. If you thought it was dieing down, last years playoffs kicked it up ten fold. When that schedule came out, first thing I looked for was when Mo-Pete was coming and when Vince was coming. But let me also tell you what has added to this Nets/Raptor thing, the fact that we are in the same division. Just that fact adds more to it. Not only is every team battling for the most important title which is the championship, we also get the secondary battles for things like Atlantic Divison Champions. Is that more important then the rings? Of course not. But it helps add to the battles. Winning the divison also means top seeding in the playoffs which adds to the drama. If we broke the playoffs down at the end of the season to a 1-14 seeding, we lose that added bonus for the divison battles as well as decrease the chances of the two teams meeting in the playoffs.

And here is the main reason why we need a strong Eastern conference, because with out a team that can dominate in the East we won't see anything close to a return to the Celtics/Lakers 80's feud. That feud happened because both were equal in talent and they battled everyone else to always meet each other on the big stage. And the Lakers won some, and the Celtics won a few also. It's true that we might never see anything like that again, it was the perfect storm for various reasons (Bird and Magic histroy together) but until we get stronger teams in the east, it's a fact that it won't happen again. The Suns vs. Spurs vs. Mavs is already an intense rivarly. But it won't be quite the top notch level like Lakers/Celtics if they are not playing for the championship. Move one of those teams to the east, and there we go. Imagine a few years worth of Spurs vs. Suns for the title. Or Dirk vs. Nash. We need to see a Eastern conference team take that step up so that we can get the proper finals match-ups that would compare to a Spurs/Suns series with out having us lose the whole Eastern Conference/Western Conference playoff seeding in doing that.

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