By Jarrett Booth
Now that Lebron James has left for the Lakers, the eastern conference is up for grabs. The era of the rivalry between Golden State and Cleveland is over. I predict a Golden State versus Boston finals, with the Warriors winning it all, 4-2. Regardless, it’s going to be exciting to see which team wins each conference.
With all players healthy, the Boston Celtics are loaded with talent on both the offensive and the defensive side. Kyrie Irving has been a star since his early days in Cleveland, while Jaylen Brown continues to improve on both ends of the floor. Add in Al Horford, a healthy Gordon Hayward and another young star Jayson Tatum, then they look like a clear favorite.
There may be much more competition than it seems. The Toronto Raptors can pose quite a threat. The team traded away its star player, DeMar DeRozan, this offseason, but they got back a much better star — Kawhi Leonard. Leonard appears to be embracing the city of Toronto, buying into the Raptors’ system. He looks healthy and ready to play.
A healthy Leonard is among the best players in the league and is easily the best player in the eastern conference. The Raptors have a team with veterans like Danny Green, Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas and all-star point guard Kyle Lowry. The Raptors look like they can be talented on offense and defense. The only thing stopping them for the past three years was the Cleveland Cavaliers, and that won’t be the case this year since LeBron James is gone.
The Philadelphia 76ers have two young superstars in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. The team just seems to be missing one more extremely talented player. If Markelle Fultz catches fire this year, it could be exactly what this team needs. Regardless, the future looks extremely bright in the city of Philadelphia, but this just does not seem to be their year.
The eastern conference has other talented teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, Washington Wizards, Indiana Pacers and Detroit Pistons, but they are not at the same level of skill and talent as the first three teams mentioned.
The Western Conference is a completely different story.
Last year, it took the Golden State Warriors seven games to beat the Houston Rockets in the western conference finals. Odds are it’s going to be these two teams meeting in the conference finals again.
The Golden State Warriors are one the most talented teams ever assembled. The team now has five all-stars in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and now, Demarcus Cousins. Cousins is still healing from his torn left achilles tendon but once he is healthy, he’ll be able to play in a system of basketball that just seems superior to the rest of league.
There is hope, though. LeBron James has a new team and a fresh start, and there is no doubt that he will continue to be a dominant force in the league to uphold his reputation as “The King.” His streak of eight consecutive finals appearances is in serious jeopardy though, because it doesn’t look like the Lakers can beat the Warriors in the finals.