The trade deadline was a busy day across the NBA as it typically is every season, but something was slightly different this year.
We saw a plethora of Eastern Conference contenders stockpile even more talent as they gear up for a postseason push. Typically the winner out East is already known year-in and year-out but with LeBron James now out of the picture, teams are seizing their opportunity. LeBron himself took note of the increased activity out East as well, and told Athletic’s Joe Vardon that teams are loading up since they no longer have to go through James to reach the NBA Finals.
“Those top teams in the East, yeah, they’re going for it. Toronto is going for it, Milwaukee’s going for it, Philly. Boston believes they can do it, too. They know they ain’t gotta go through Cleveland anymore,” James said. “Everybody in the East thinks they can get to the Finals because they ain’t gotta go through me.”
“Shit, I was excited seeing all the moves they made in the East today,” James continued. “Those matchups in the second round, in the Eastern Conference finals, that shit is gonna be crazy. It’s gonna be fun to watch.”
Though James’ statements may rub some the wrong way, what he’s saying is absolutely correct. James dominated the Eastern Conference for the better part of the past decade; whether it was with the Cleveland Cavaliers or Miami Heat, LeBron making the finals was almost a foregone conclusion in years past.
Now with James battling out West, we’ve seen teams such as the Sixers, Bucks and Raptors gear up for a potential finals run. The Raptors own the best player in the East and continue to add pieces around him while the Sixers will run out one of the most complete starting lineups we’ve seen in years. With James finally out of the East, anything is possible and these top teams are very well aware.