BY OWEN SCARROW
The Eastern Conference
For the majority of his career, LeBron James dominated the eastern conference. Between his time with the Miami Heat and his second tenure with the Cleveland Cavaliers, James made the finals eight years in a row, and teams planned their whole team around one day beating his teams. With James now off in L.A., the east has never been as wide open as it is now, and teams are gearing up for their shot at the finals. The Milwaukee Bucks made a quiet deal for a seamless fit in Nikola Mirotic, the Philadelphia 76ers now have one of the best starting lineups in the league after picking up Tobias Harris, and the Raptors followed suit by trading for big man Marc Gasol. Get ready everyone, the east is about to be a wild ride.
Quietly having a great season are the L.A. Clippers, and even though their star-less group of players were in line for a playoff spot, they also saw the bigger picture. Not too often do you see a team in a playoff push trade their best player at the trade deadline, but the Clippers have bigger fish to fry after jettisoning Tobias Harris. Their name is constantly regarded as a big free agent destination this summer, and by trading away Harris they give their young players more time while also clearing enough cap space to sign two superstars this summer.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors didn’t make any moves at the deadline, and that’s good enough to be a winner in my books. It was a rocky start to the Warriors season. Soon-to-be free agent Kevin Durant seemed to irk teammates as his non-committal stance on where he’d play next year was a dark cloud over the teams head. Since their loss at the buzzer to the Houston Rockets on Jan 3, they’ve gone 15-1, all-star center Demarcus Cousins has returned, and they look just as dominant as ever and primed to win their fourth championship in five years. For the Warriors, making no move was the best move they could have made.
The Atlanta Hawks are in full rebuild mode, building around rookie point guard Trae Young, second-year forward John Collins, and swingman Taurean Prince. Last year at the deadline, they failed to trade away some of their meaningful assets for draft picks and young players to help jumpstart their rebuild. This year they seemed primed to move some of their pieces, but once again failed to make anything happen. Jeremy Lin is a veteran guard who can help any contending team and is worth at least a couple picks, big man Dewayne Dedmon is another player who could have netted a decent return, and Vince Carter is a player who is still very useful for most teams in the league. If the Hawks are serious about this rebuild they’re going to have to start moving their most valuable pieces sometime soon.
The Boston Celtics were most people’s pick to go to the NBA finals this year out of the eastern conference. They were a win away last year without Kyrie Irving and after losing Gordon Hayward five minutes into his first game of the year. With the two of them back this year, and with another year of development for young stars Jayson Tatum and Jalen Brown, the Celtics seemed destined for the finals this year, but to say the season has been a disaster is an understatement. After a slow start, they’ve started to gain some traction in recent weeks, but there have been rumblings of locker room disconnect and a once loyal Irving has been much less forward with his intentions to resign with the team after this year. With the rest of the top teams in the east making big moves, the Celtics may have let a once-promising season slip away.
New Orleans Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis shocked NBA circles a few weeks ago by requesting a trade, and giving the organization a list of teams he would resign with past next season when he can opt out of his current contract. It was a power move from a player on a team that absolutely did not have to deal him, and that’s exactly what happened. Davis’ first game back after the deadline was one to forget as he was booed mercilessly by a once-loving New Orleans fan base. Davis will have to wait for this summer to be traded, and he’ll be forced to play out the rest of this season on floundering Pelicans team in an arena that will be less than friendly.