The Golden State Warriors are going to remain intact to make another run at an NBA title after retaining a supporting cast of David West, Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala in free agency and locking up Steph Curry long-term.
The Western Conference could end up stronger than it was in 2015 when the Oklahoma City Thunder failed to make the playoffs despite 45 wins. By comparison, that win total would've gotten an Eastern Conference team a No. 5 seed in the 2016-17 season.
The biggest moves at the June 22 draft shifted assets to the West. Since free agency opened Saturday, the same has transpired.
Three of the best two-way players in the NBA, Jimmy Butler, Paul George and Paul Millsap, have gone from East to West. Butler was shipped to the Minnesota Timberwolves, a team that could help bring up the bottom of the conference and qualify for the postseason for the first time in 14 years.
In part, because Indiana Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard doesn't believe in trading a game-changer such as George in his own conference, the Thunder look like a team that'll go beyond the first round and bring up the middle after landing George. And the Denver Nuggets are in prime position to move into a playoff spot, too, after missing the last four postseasons. They were 40-42 and finished one spot out of the playoffs, but now have Millsap on their side.
The Houston Rockets got even better after their addition of Chris Paul. They just secured P.J. Tucker, a big, physical wing defender, from the East's Toronto Raptors.
Because of salary cap constraints, the No. 2 seed Cleveland Cavaliers and No. 4 Wizards haven't been able to do much. The Boston Celtics had the best shot at George but couldn't make that happen. The best the No. 3 seed Toronto Raptors could do is re-sign two players who could be past their best in Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka.
The Sacramento Kings have agreed to a max offer sheet with restricted free agent Otto Porter and the Wizards will have 48 hours to match when the moratorium is lifted July 6. They''re expected to do so, but if not Porter could help make the Kings a legitimate playoff team for the first time since 2006. Even without Porter, the offseason moves and draft picks they've made have given them promise as it is.
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Even if Gordon Hayward chooses to sign with the Miami Heat or Celtics, that won't be nearly enough to offset an offseason of imbalance. If he opts to stay with the 51-win Utah Jazz, that'll just be one more landmine in the West.
It's still tough to imagine the Warriors not repeating, but their road through an 82-game regular season will be much rougher. And if they have an injury or slip up, there could be viable replacements.
Last season's East playoff teams such as the Pacers, Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks have taken major steps backward. The only conference team that has made significant, possibly game-changing shakeups is the Philadelphia 76ers. They finished 15th of 16 teams and should vault into the playoff picture.
Still, the Sixers have a lot of question marks in terms of the health of their starters and rookie Markelle Fultz. They're not going to be good enough to create a power shift in the conference just yet, but they're in a great spot.
The 2018 NBA Finals could turn into an anticlimactic consolation matchup, with the series between the best teams actually taking place in the West finals. The top of the East appears to just be treading water, which basically means its falling farther behind.
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