The Battle for the NBA Eastern Conference
By Zachary Kersh
With the 2017-18 NBA season almost upon us, across the country, the Eastern Conference has made historic and game changing moves this offseason, preparing to battle for the top spot and in hopes for the ultimate goal, a title. However, to win the war, teams must first win multiple battles. The offseason has been full of unexpected trades, shocking signings, and unmatchable performances.
According to ESPN’s website, these are the Eastern Conference's wins and seeding predictions:
Big time trades are not only exciting to follow, but allow teams to obtain whichever players they desire. On August 22nd, All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving was sent to the Celtics for fellow All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Anter Zizic, and the 2018 first-round pick from the Brooklyn Nets. In my opinion. The Celtics won this trade. Kyrie Irving is amazing scorer and is underrated in his abilities to lead a team. On September 24th, it was announced that, after multiple trade rumors, Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks had been sent to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and a 2018 second round pick via the Bulls. I believe the Thunder are the clear winners of this trade. They acquired a veteran player who is still a game changer. In addition, with the acquisition of Paul George, the Thunder will be one of my favorite teams to watch.
Draft trades can make a team much better, through youth, better players, or picks. The 1st pick of the draft belonged to Boston, until the 76ers traded their 3rd overall pick and either a 2018 or 2019 1st round pick (whichever is favorable) for the rights to whatever player they desired. With this trade, I can see the 76ers becoming one of the NBA powerhouses in the next few years. Another blockbuster trade that shocked the NBA was between the Timberwolves and Bulls. The bulls traded All-Star Jimmy Butler and the 16th overall pick, for the 7th pick, Zach Lavine, and Kris Dunn. Finally. Minnesota has formed a powerful core. I think with Jimmy Butler, a three-time all-star, the Timberwolves will shock many teams and fans alike. Following locker trouble with D’Angelo Russell, he was traded to the Nets for Brook Lopez and 27th pick.
In the draft, teams used their designated picks to select young players that they believed would be valuable to their team. With the 1st overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft, the 76ers selected point guard Markelle Fultz from Washington. An elite scorer from all parts of the floor, he could potentially be the last piece of the 76ers future core, along with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. I expected them to make this pick, since I believe they need a facilitator to help out all other positions. With the 3rd pick, the Celtics selected small forward Jayson Tatum from Duke. One of the best scorers in the class, Tatum’s tremendous 6’8” frame paired with his athleticism could be just what Boston needs to defeat the Cavaliers. With the 7th pick, the Bulls selected center Lauri Markkannen from Arizona State, a floor-spacing threat at 7’0” tall. He has the potential to become one of the best shooting centers in the NBA, but still has work to do around the post.
In free agency, J.J. Redick signed with the 76ers for one year, $23 million. Kyle Lowry returned to the Raptors on a three-year deal worth nearly $100 million. Finally, All-Star Gordon Hayward signed with the Celtics for four years, $128 million. The Celtics have once again risen to the top. I still do not think they have a chance of defeating the reigning NBA champions, the Golden State Warriors.
The biggest rivals are often between teams in the same conference, such as the Wizards and the Celtics, or the Cavs and Raptors. The Eastern Conference is no exception; therefore, the main focus is being the top seed in either the east or west. Last year, The Celtics earned the top position, followed by the Cavaliers, Raptors, Wizards, and Hawks. The Cavaliers won the Eastern Conference in the playoffs, though they lost to the Warriors in the Finals. This year, I expect the Wizards to obtain the third seed, and the Raptors to fall to fifth. I believe the Bucks will earn the third seed, with one of my favorite players, Giannas Antetokounmpo, posting career highs.
Though the Eastern Conference has 8 less average wins per team than the Western Conference, teams have an average of 1.49 wins in the difference of each seed, compared to the West’s 2.31. Glenelg ninth grader Niko Garbis feels, “That with the addition of many high-performance players, the Eastern Conference will become even more competitive and therefore even more entertaining and exciting.” Hopefully he is right. With many new faces, jerseys, and rivalries, this NBA season should be one to remember.
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