To say the Eastern Conference and Western Conference are extremely polarized would be an understatement. The Western Conference has been undisputedly the best conference NBA for the past few years. Now, however, with recent trades and acquisitions, the disparity between the two conferences has reached a whole other level.
As of last night, Paul George is officially part of the Oklahoma City Thunder. This came about via a trade that sent Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana in exchange for George.
It was reported that the Boston Celtics offered two starters, including Jae Crowder, along with three draft picks in next year’s draft in hopes of acquiring George; one of these picks was the Brooklyn nets unprotected pick that will likely be a lottery pick.
The Indiana Pacers declined this deal and went on to Trade George for what seemed to be a lot less. They acquired two young talents that are good, but not great. The Thunder would have acquired the exact same assets by trading George to the Celtics while also getting three more draft picks in this year’s upcoming draft.
Either way, the Pacers unloaded George and got something in return which was their goal. If they were unable to work something out before this upcoming season, George would walk away once his contract was up and Indiana would not get anything for him in return. It just seems like they could have gotten a lot more for a star as talented as George.
With George officially on the Oklahoma City Thunder roster, this elevated them to a Western Conference contender. While this may not be a short-term path to success, it gives the Thunder two top-10 players in Westbrook and George to build around. Adding one more all-star would make the Thunder a contender for the championship every single year.
From a macro perspective in the NBA, this further separates the conferences. The Western Conference is now a hotbed of really talented teams. Just two days ago the Houston Rockets added Chris Paul to play alongside former MVP candidate James Harden.
This adds two very solid teams to the Western Conference alongside San Antonio and Golden State.
This will change a lot going forward. Not only on the court, but also during this offseason.
First of all, it will limit Golden States dominance in the Western Conference. There is no doubt they are still the overwhelming favorite to come out of the west. With the recent acquisitions made, however, it will make that path much more difficult for them; especially in comparison to the Eastern Conference.
Lastly and most importantly, this changes the entire market for any other marquee players being shopped around or in free agency such as Carmelo Anthony and Gordon Hayward.
For players sitting in this situation right now, the easiest path to an NBA finals appearance is signing with a team like the Boston Celtics or Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference. There is just so much competition in the Western Conference that the Eastern Conference may be an appealing option to players who have played late in the NBA playoffs such as ‘Melo or Hayward.
Regardless of what does happen, the NBA will look very different this upcoming season.