Unless you’ve lived under a rock this season, then you already know just how competitive the NBA’s Western Conference has now become. Basketball, maybe more than any other sport is played to its competition, and the competition just went up a notch.
I believe the West has become what it is because of four key reasons...
1) The 2005 draft
Milwaukee took Bogut, followed by Atlanta doing what they do best—which was draft their 100th forward/guard tweener (because they don’t have enough of them). But it was Utah and New Orleans that made out like bandits. It’s not so much that Deron Williams and Chris Paul are just great players, but it’s the fact that they transformed two mediocre teams into relevant contenders. This proving once again that the point guard position is so utterly crucial to a team and it’s chemistry, that the 2005 draft will forever be a haunting reminder to all GM’s, that bigger isn’t always better.
2) The Kevin Garnett trade
Boston fans couldn’t believe it until KG actually landed in Boston. For that matter no one else could either. With Danny Ainge’s job hanging by a thread, he hit the biggest “Oh Sh*t” button the NBA had ever seen. First Ray Allen and then KG; This had to make every other GM around the league feel impotent.
As a result, all the monster movement we’ve seen this season I think has been somewhat influenced by this deal. Kobe Bryant complained before the Boston trade, complained even more after the trade, and ultimately his complaints ended up being the best thing for the Lakers and Pau Gasol’s well-being.
This sprawled a chain reaction which brought Shaq to Phoenix and Jason Kidd to Dallas. Mark Cuban had had his eye on Kidd for awhile, but it wasn’t until everyone else in the West had thrown their chips in, that he decided to go all in. One could also make the argument that the Spurs made one of the best deals before the trade deadline by acquiring Kurt Thomas.
The Western Conference simply has better coaching, Gregg Popovich, Phil Jackson, and Jerry Sloan to name a few. The East on the other hand has geniuses like Mike Brown, Isiah Thomas, and Maurice Cheeks. When you think about it, Toronto Raptors Head Coach Sam Mitchell has got to be floored knowing that he might be the best overall coach the Eastern Conference has to offer.
4) The Chicago Bulls and the Miami Heat
Think about it, we know Detroit can hang with the best, Boston is certainly proving it’s worth this year, Cleveland, Orlando, and Toronto are all decent teams on the way up. If youcount it, that’s5 out of 15 teams that are legit. If Chicago and Miami hadn’t been such colossal disappointments, the East wouldn't look all that bad. If both those teams were playing well, or at least as well as most thought going into the season. The Eastern Conference playoffs would’ve become interesting in the first round, thus making the NBA just that much more exciting.
The Western Conference might be the better conference right now, but what’s more important is that the NBA is better right now.