In just a matter of months, LeBron James and Chris Bosh took their talents to South Beach. Carlos Boozer left Utah for Chicago, where Derrick Rose turned into a superstar. Dwight Howard improved as an offensive player in Orlando, where just about every three-point shooter in the NBA now plays, and the Knicks brought Amare Stoudamire, Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony to the Garden.
If you add in the perennially elite Celtics, the East now has five teams with enough talent to make a run to the NBA finals. Out West, only overachieving Dallas and San Antonio, underachieving Los Angeles, and unproven Oklahoma City can really do the same.
So, which team is the best in the East? The Celtics still have the most playoff experience and the best recent playoff record, but after moving Kendrick Perkins and struggling with depth, their future remains unclear.
Miami, a team that notches blowout after blowout, is the league’s most talented team, but their style of basketball is exactly what doesn’t work come playoff time. They’ll have to disprove that notion come May.
Orlando, the conference’s most hit-or-miss team, has the league’s best big man, but their fortunes always hinge on whether or not their jump shots are falling. They’ve been able to get hot and win the East before, but it’s still tough to bet on them to do it again.
Chicago recently has emerged as the most complete team in the East. They have the league’s best defense, a legitimate superstar, great role players, and multiple talented scorers. Much like Miami, we’ve never seen them in the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean we should count them out.
Then, there’s New York, a team that nobody has seen much of at all, since they traded half of their team away just a week ago. They’ll surely have no trouble scoring with Anthony and Stoudamire playing D’Antoni ball, but they probably won’t stop anybody either.