For years among years the league hasn’t been balanced in terms of competition in one or both conferences. After this year’s off-season, things seem to be “Perfectly balanced, as all things should be.” From 2015 to 2018, was four straight Finals match-ups between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors. Before that, LeBron had already achieved four straight Finals with the Miami Heat. Much of the same occurred in the mid-late 90’s with Jordan’s Bulls. That didn’t change one bit in the early 2000’s with the dominant duo of Shaq and Kobe. Is the NBA approaching an era that’s balanced? Let’s take a look at each conference’s title contenders.
After suffering defeat in game seven to the NBA champion Toronto Raptors, the 76ers will be back and better than ever. The decision to trade Jimmy Butler could be their saving grace. In return, Philly received Josh Richardson, who is a very solid wing player. Richardson is great perimeter defender who can also stroke it from deep pretty well. Philly also signed Al Horford away from the Celtics. Horford will likely play at Power Forward, bumping Tobias Harris up to Small Forward. Imagine the mismatch problems that this team will present to opposing teams next year, while being one of the best if not THE best defensive team in the league.
Much like Philly, the Bucks had the Toronto Raptors on the ropes down 0-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals. Milwaukee proceeding to drop four straight games to the Klaw. Led by the Greek Freak, Milwaukee will be right there in terms on contending for the East. Furthermore, we can only assume the reining MVP will be in the same form this coming year. Meanwhile, Kris Middleton is looking to build on his All-Star year from this past season. The Bucks lost Nikola Mirotic, who really didn’t do much for them. However, they successfully brought back their key role players like Pau Gasol, Eric Bledsoe, and Pat Connaughton. If Giannis Antetokounmpo develops a consistent jumper, Milwaukee could be neck and neck with the 76ers.
If there is any silver lining for the Boston Celtics to lean on, it’s the fact that a team with great chemistry can take down a more talented team on any given night. That’s what Brad Stevens and Danny Ainge are looking for with the additions of Kemba Walker and Enes Kanter. In the grand scheme of things, we all know Kemba Walker will be great for Boston this year. On the contrary, title contention relies heavily on improved play from Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward, and Jayson Tatum. Tatum and Brown had their good and bad moments last year, but can quickly change the narrative with a quick start to the upcoming regular season. As for Gordon Hayward, he still hasn’t returned to the Utah Jazz star that Ainge expected out of him. If Gordon can get anywhere close to that, then Boston will still be a very dangerous dark horse in the East. With this being said, the East is wide open, which contributes to this NBA neutrality that many NBA fans are hoping for.
Los Angeles Lakers
Taking a look at the West coast, what an off-season it has been for both LA teams. First up is the Lakers with their additions of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. After missing the playoffs, acquiring AD was critical for the franchise moving forward to pair with the King. Furthermore, keeping Kyle Kuzma could pay off for Rob Pelinka as Kuzma is budding into a star and could have a breakout season due to the fact that most of the defensive attention will be paid to Cousins, LeBron, and Davis. In the same way, Boogie Cousins is the true “X” factor of this team. Boogie has been gifted an off-season of continuing to recover and lose weight, which he has done dramatically. Furthermore, if he can be the player he was in New Orleans, or anywhere close to it, the Lakers are a tough team to beat in the playoffs.
Los Angeles Clippers
Simultaneously, Jerry West has put together a squad that is just as dangerous as the Lakers. West signed Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard then completed a trade to bring in Paul George for compliments. However, it’s not just about the big names that were brought in, but the role players that were brought back. Patrick Beverly was one of the top priorities after having a fantastic year, then West successfully brought him back. Let’s not forget about vital players like Lou Williams either, who other teams will hate to see leading the second string for the Clippers. Mixing in Montrezl Harrell and Ivica Zubac, this team will be one of the scariest defensive teams in the league. The LA match-up will extremely fun to watch next year.
The Western Conference has three other teams that have a “chance” for making a title run, which contributes to how balanced the league actually is. Those teams being Houston, Denver, and Portland. Houston dumped Chris Paul to reunite Russell Westbrook and James Harden, while keeping a hold of Clint Capela and P.J. Tucker. Houston’s title odds will fluctuate depending on how well the Russ/Beard duo mesh. On the other hand, Denver is running it back with the same exact squad except for the addition of Jerami Grant from OKC. Do we finally see if Michael Porter Jr. can play or not? Either way, the Nuggets will be a playoff team to be reckoned with if Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic continue to get better. Lastly, the Portland Trailblazers, who brought in Hassan Whiteside in a trade from the Miami Heat. He will replace Nurkic as he continues to recover from his leg injury. Expect Dame and C.J. to carry this team into a deep playoff run once Nurkic comes back. It’s been years since we’ve seen the league so balanced across both conferences. Read more about it in the link below.