Recent Moves Have Not Shaken Up the NBA's East as Much as You Think

Randy LutzCorrespondent IJuly 5, 2009

The start of the NBA's annual free agency period has certainly brought more than enough news for guys like me to analyze. 

As we wait for the dust to settle, and see what might happen with the likes of Lamar Odom, Jason Kidd, Marcin Gortat (and even David Lee), I'm absolutely blown away by prospect of watching next season's playoffs—particularly in the Eastern Conference.

The first move made in the east was for Orlando to trade for Vince Carter.  This trade was the first blockbuster move of the recent past, and likely sparked a great deal of the moves that followed. 

After being told by Turkoglu that he will not be resigning with Orlando, the Magic were certainly forced to make a move—I'm just not sure they did what was best for their team.  At the end of the day, Vince not only has to replace Hedo, but also the players he was traded for—Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston, and Tony Battie. 

While I'm sure he won't be expected to play defense on the block like Battie was known for, the cost of bringing him in was high—and the expectations will be similarly high.  In a league where depth means everything, trading away a great deal of that depth makes very little sense to me. 

At the end of the day, Gortat is likely moving on, Hedo has reportedly signed with Toronto, and the point guard who brought the Magic to the NBA finals is suiting up in a Nets uniform. I just don't believe that the Magic have made themselves any better so far this off season.

Cleveland was the next elite Eastern Conference team to act, trading Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic to the Suns for the well known Shaquille O'Neal.  This move has sparked much debate on blogs across the web, including BR, as to how the presence of both Shaq and Lebron on the court will work for the Cavaliers.

I believe that a low post presence like Shaq alongside a slashing and shooting threat like Lebron can only mean good things for the Cavs.  That being said, the Celtics with KG, Pierce, and Allen would still have been a considerable challenge for the Cavs—with or without Shaquille. 

The word is that the Cavs will not be bringing Varejao back, which makes me wonder what might come next.  Keeping Big Z as the league's most expensive backup center doesn't make a whole lot of sense. At the same time, lining up Z and Shaq at the same time doesn't seem like the best idea, either. 

Despite the fact Z has been in Cleveland his whole career, I wouldn't be shocked to see the Cavs work to deal him to a team that's looking to clear some cap space for the summer of 2010 (when Z's contract expires). 

Of course, the Cavs could always use the space, but I don't think cap space is a real issue when resigning your own player—and they should stand to offer LeBron more money than anyone, either way.

Still, you need a solid power forward on any successful team, and the Cavs don't have one.  This is a problem that needs to be solved before the tip off of the '09-'10 season.

This brings me to the Celtics, as the last of the Eastern Conference elite. 

It's currently being announced that Rasheed Wallace will be signing a two year deal with Boston for the mid-level exception. The signing is very unsurprising given the fact GM Danny Ainge brought head coach Doc Rivers—as well as Ray Allan, Paul Pierce, and KG—with him to talk Rasheed into joining them. 

It's well known that 'Sheed and KG are good friends, and it will be interesting to see how that helps to build chemistry between Rasheed and the rest of the team. 

Rasheed is really one of the original PF's who didn't quite conform to our expectations of the position when he first entered the league. 

A big guy who can shoot the three?  That was almost unheard of 15 years ago, and yet now the league seems to be full of them.

Rasheed should be able to pull opposing centers out of the paint when he lines up at the five spot to relieve Perkins. He will be a great backup for KG, as well as an insurance plan should the injuries of last season continue to plague the Celtics' star forward in the future. 

As with the Cavs however, there are some other questions the Celtics must answer. 

Number one: Are they going to be able to resign either Leon Powe or Glen "Big Baby" Davis—or both?  As I mentioned earlier in this article, depth in this league seems to be everything, and having a solid top 10 guys or so is essential in chasing that ever elusive title.

The Celtics cannot allow the signing of Wallace to take away from their ability to bring back players like Powe and Davis, who served as solid role players off the bench (before Powe saw his season end due to injury, that is).

At the end of the day, all these moves haven't seemed to have changed too much in the NBA's powerful Eastern Conference.  The Cavs and Celts still sit atop the rankings. And despite a recent trip to the finals—a run during which they beat both teams—Orlando remains third on my list. 

With the moves Detroit has made, Toronto acquiring Hedo, and the Nets adding Rafer Alston and young Courtney Lee to the mix; there will be many solid teams throughout the Eastern Conference next year. 

The playoffs should be very interesting to watch, and the expected match up in the Finals of Cavaliers vs. Celtics will be one for the ages—presuming everyone's health is maintained.