On Feb. 21, news broke that Carmelo Anthony was finally on his way out of Denver via a blockbuster trade with the New York Knicks. Most sportswriters are debating who won and who lost out on the deal. The smart fan knows who the real winner is: the NBA.
Melo's departure from the Nuggets and subsequent addition to the Knicks' squad solidifies this year's postseason as the best since the mid-90s. Take a peek at just a few of the story lines surrounding the playoff push:
-The Amar'e Stoudemire-led Knickerbockers, currently seventh in the East, will be given a mile-high shot in the arm from the addition of Anthony. The two superstars could improve New York's current seed dramatically before the season is over.
-Miami, the team that everyone loves to hate, is coasting along at second place in the East. LeBron's Heat are the most polarizing team in the league, and they will get more television viewers than any other team in the postseason.
-The Celtics are living up to their hype and squashed opponents through the first half of the season. They are hungry to avenge their Game 7 loss in last year's NBA Finals against Los Angeles.
-Derrick Rose and his Chicago Bulls are on a hot streak and ready to make some noise in May. Is there anything that conjures up memories of the NBA's last golden era more than Chicago's red and white jerseys making a run for the title?
Who Will Win The Eastern Conference Finals?
-In the West, the Lakers are the defending champs and having a down year. This makes everything more interesting. Can the champs make it a three-peat while essentially being an underdog in the playoffs? The Lakers' slump means there is no clear favorite in 2011.
-The Spurs, for years a playoff mainstay, are ready to claim one more title before their aging stars are over the hill. Quick playmakers like Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili make the Spurs fun to watch in the postseason.
-Young stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are leading the charge for Oklahoma City. The Thunder's youthful one-two combo is possibly the best in the league, and after a tough playoffs loss to Los Angeles last year, OKC is ready to rebound.
The NBA prides itself on its staple of young superstars, and most of them will be able to show off their skills in the playoffs this year. The potential match ups make one want to skip the rest of the regular season and have these heavyweights prove it in the ring, so to speak.
Knicks-Bulls for the Eastern crown? How about Heat-Celtics? Another Lakers-Celtics final will equal another ratings bonanza, and you could say the same for most Finals match-ups.
In a season that began with more hype than any other in recent memory, the teams are coming through. This year's NBA Playoffs could be what pushes the league to the next level, one that might be "Jordan-esque."
If the NBA is ever going to come through on their slogan, "Where Amazing Happens," this is the year. Buckle up and hold on tight. While you are at it, send Carmelo Anthony a thank-you card.