Not long ago, the NBA’s Western Conference was king.
The Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs teamed up to dominate whatever Eastern Conference foe stood in their way, winning nine championships in 12 years.
Most of the league’s best players and best teams resided in the West and the East was relegated to a joke.
But years of being the bottom feeder has finally led to an infusion of young talent in the East.
LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Dwight Howard and Derrick Rose have all risen to super stardom and are poised to lead their teams to championships in the coming years.
Now that Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups and Deron Williams have been traded to the east a seismic shift has taken place, and it looks like the Eastern Conference will once again return to the glory it enjoyed in the ‘90s.
The Spurs and Lakers, while still elite teams, are aging rapidly. The rest of the Western Conference is mediocre and doesn’t have young talent to build around aside from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Meanwhile, the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls are assembling teams that will be good for the long haul.
Anthony and Billups immediately transform the Knicks from a middle of the pack team to a squad that can compete for a championship.
Carmelo is a self-absorbed flake but there is no doubting his ability. He is one of the best players in the game and can carry a team on his back. When you combine him with an elite big man like Amare Stoudemire, he becomes even more dangerous.
But the Knicks won big when they acquired Billups.
He may be 34 years old and nearing the end of his career but he can still play the game at a high level. Come playoff time, having a player with his experience at point guard will be a major advantage for New York. The Knicks now have the roster to compete with anyone.
In the 2008 draft, the Bulls hit the jackpot when they nabbed Derrick Rose with the first pick. In just three short years, he has developed into the best point guard in the NBA.
Chicago is just two games back from first place in the conference. If they can find an elite shooting guard to match with Rose, they will be a force to be reckoned for a long time.
That brings us full circle to the Heat, who made the biggest splash in free agency in 2010 signing James and Bosh while retaining Wade. Love them or hate them, you better get used to the idea that the Heat will be the class of the NBA for the foreseeable future.
With their talent and youth, I could see the Heat challenging to be one of the greatest NBA dynasties ever.
That’s high praise for a team that has won nothing yet but as they find role players that fit their system they could be better than Jordan’s Bulls, Kobe’s Lakers and Bird’s Celtics.
There is little doubt years of the Western Conference’s domination over the East is slowly coming to an end.
The tides are turning and the Eastern Conference will be loaded with great teams and rivalries for years to come.
Maybe, just maybe, we are seeing the beginning of the resurgence of the NBA that has been desperately needed.