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Knicks, Nets, East Get Stronger

Posted By Brandon Marcus On Feb 27 2011 @ 1:20 am In NBA | No Comments

Two blockbuster trades in the span of 48 hours has titled the balance of power towards the Eastern Conference. The West has been the stronger conference for several years, and remains so, however the movement of Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams and Chauncey Billups East is quite significant. By any ones standards, Anthony and Williams are two of the top fifteen talents in the league, and the crusty Billups is no slouch either. Overlooked amidst the elation surrounding Anthony’s New York homecoming, Billups was his usually savvy self in his own Knick debut Wednesday night.

The Nets appeared to be the losers in the wake of the Melo sweepstakes, as the Knicks grabbed the star and the accolades once again. Instead, they swiftly responded by getting a stud of their own, executing the deadlines best deal, sending shock waves around the NBA on Wednesday afternoon. Acquiring Deron Williams, arguably the best point guard in the league, was a masterful move by Billy King. Utah operated with stealth in dealing Williams after he apparently sent signals he would not resign. Meanwhile, the Nets secure a franchise-type talent for whom to build around as they ready for a move to Brooklyn. They sacrifice Devin Harris, Derrick Favors and two first round picks in a deal some view as a sizable risk, but you don’t think twice about obtaining a player of William’s caliber.

They were unable to attract the top free agent talent last off-season, and again when losing out on Anthony, so the Nets grabbed a guy who couldn’t handpick his team. Williams is under their control for a year and a half, and the Nets are tasked with convincing him to remain beyond next year. A weighty task for sure, but they couldn’t persuade a star to come, so instead they must persuade a star to stay.

These two deals greatly strengthen the Eastern Conference, which may still be top heavy, but is exponentially more talented than it has been the past few years. In the off-season we saw Boozer and Stoudemire head East, and now even more talent has followed. The league’s most dangerous teams currently reside atop the East, and the conference is only primed to get stronger. It’s likely more players will head East as the Miami’s and New York’s stack up and competition amongst those teams will only magnify this power shift.

On the other side of these deals are Denver and Utah, playoff mainstays shifting into rebuilds after dealing away their respective franchise players. However, both teams received legitimate young talent in return, and in the case of Denver, their regression could be short lived. The Nuggets are loaded with young talent across the board, with Gallinari, Chandler and Felton immediately stepping in as highly capable contributors. Gallinari, the gem of the trade, possesses star potential and he and Felton will quickly emerge as fan favorites in Denver. Felton and Ty Lawson share similar skill sets, both quick and tough point guards, who alongside Chandler, Gallo and Aaron Afflalo at the wing forge a solid young group for which to build around. Add to that the experience and depth of the frontcourt and it would come as no surprise to me if they held onto a playoff spot.

Some may view the actions of Anthony, and more quietly Williams, as bad for the league – star players pushing their teams to move them. However, from the perspective of creating a better equilibrium between conferences, these trades could be viewed positively. And it forces other teams to be smarter yet also take risks, contributing to this wild deadline we’ve just witnessed. Another factor will be the upcoming CBA negotiations which, lockout or not, are likely to result in a more restrictive payroll structure. But thats a conversation for another day.

With young stars like Melo and Deron moving East, coupled with aging stars such as Kobe, Duncan and Dirk out West, it is clear that the pendulum is swinging towards the Eastern Conference. And its only a matter of time before the West is chasing.

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