The balance of power in the NBA has been in the Western Conference for several seasons, but the Eastern Conference has more depth and strength than it has had in years.
Could that talent give the East a lift in this Sunday's All-Star Game when LeBron James leads his conference onto the floor at Air Canada Centre in Toronto?
At first glance, it will be difficult for the East to stay with its Western counterparts. Any time you have three members of the streaking Golden State Warriors in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, it's going to be a challenge to stay with that team.
|BC||Kyle Lowry||Toronto Raptors|
|BC||Dwyane Wade||Miami Heat|
|FC||LeBron James||Cleveland Cavaliers|
|FC||Paul George||Indiana Pacers|
|FC||Carmelo Anthony||New York Knicks|
|BC||Jimmy Butler||Chicago Bulls|
|BC||DeMar DeRozan||Toronto Raptors|
|BC||John Wall||Washington Wizards|
|BC||Isaiah Thomas||Boston Celtics|
|FC||Chris Bosh||Miami Heat|
|FC||Paul Millsap||Atlanta Hawks|
|FC||Andre Drummond||Detroit Pistons|
James is the leader of the East, as he is with any team he has ever played on. Of course, James has the numbers that fans are used to seeing, as he is averaging 24.9 points, 7.1 rebounds and 6.4 assists per game.
But with James, the leadership factor may be a burden in the All-Star Game. He has the pressure of trying to carry the Cleveland Cavaliers as far as he can, and he would like nothing better than to let other players take care of the All-Star Game.
But the King is not just the King part of the time. He has to be the King every time he takes the court. Since he is facing such a loaded Western Conference team, it is going to be a difficult assignment.
James is a two-time winner of the All-Star Game MVP Award, and if anyone is going to help him with the leadership role on the East squad, it may be Toronto guard Kyle Lowry, who will be starting on his home floor and is sure to get a huge ovation from the home fans.
Lowry has earned the start based on his play this year, as he is having the best season of his career. Lowry is averaging 21.1 points and 6.2 assists per night. Lowry and fellow All-Star DeMar DeRozan have been leading the Raptors close to the top of the Eastern Conference, and they have won 14 of their last 15 games after winning Monday night's game at Detroit.
Lowry is like the Energizer Bunny, because he is always on the floor. He is averaging 36.7 minutes per game, and that ranks fourth in the NBA.
|BC||Stephen Curry||Golden State Warriors|
|BC||Russell Westbrook||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|FC||Kobe Bryant||Los Angeles Lakers|
|FC||Kevin Durant||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|FC||Kawhi Leonard||San Antonio Spurs|
|BC||Chris Paul||Los Angeles Clippers|
|BC||James Harden||Houston Rockets|
|BC||Klay Thompson||Golden State Warriors|
|FC||LaMarcus Aldridge||San Antonio Spurs|
|FC||DeMarcus Cousins||Sacramento Kings|
|FC||Anthony Davis||New Orleans Pelicans|
|FC||Draymond Green||Golden State Warriors|
It's difficult to look at the Western Conference and see three members of the defending NBA champion Warriors and think that home-court advantage is going to turn the game in the East's favor.
Start off with the incredible shooting of Curry, who seems to hit key shots in every game—his incredible precision is perhaps the biggest reason why the Warriors are playing at such a historic level.
Curry is averaging 29.8 points per game and shooting an incredible 50.7 percent from the floor. His long-distance shooting has been his signature since his college days at Davidson, and he is connecting on 45.3 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.
As effective as Curry is, he is far from a one-man team on the Warriors and the Western Conference All-Stars. Thompson is a remarkable running mate in the backcourt, and he is averaging a robust 21.4 points while shooting 47.6 percent. But more than the numbers, Thompson is that steady superstar who is going to take care of business any time Curry doesn't take the lead.
Green's explosiveness and aggressiveness in the frontcourt is a huge factor for the Warriors and should help the West on Sunday as well. Green is averaging 14.4 points and 9.6 rebounds, and he is at his best when the Warriors are involved in a tight game, which is a fairly rare occasion.
Of course, it's not just a Golden State show for the Western Conference. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder may feel the need to strut their stuff in the All-Star Game just to keep the Warriors from dominating.
But much of the focus will be on Kobe Bryant in his last All-Star Game before he retires at the end of the season. Look for his Western Conference teammates to set him up when he is on the court, and he will likely get the longest and loudest ovation of any player not from the Raptors.
All stats from Basketball-Reference.com.