There is no doubt that the first few days of NBA Free Agency were telling. Two major trades took place, the top free agents either remained in the West or jumped to the West and the odds of any Eastern Conference team winning the NBA Finals became that much harder.
The Houston Rockets made the biggest change of the offseason. The Rockets acquired point guard Chris Paul in a massive sign-and-trade deal with the Los Angeles Clippers and are rumored to be in the mix to acquire Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks. The Rockets are not a sure-fire lock to make the Finals, but the move gave it a better chance to dethrone the Golden State Warriors.
The Oklahoma City Thunder also made a key move to acquire Paul George from the Indiana Pacers. It was a shocking move since George had been linked to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers. The Thunder now have another piece to play off of instead of relying on Russell Westbrook having to average a triple-double for the entire season just to make the playoffs. The Thunder may not top the Warriors in the West, but it makes it that much harder to jockey for position.
A third team that really showed how much the balance of power in the NBA has changed was the Minnesota Timberwolves. Tom Thibodeau wheeled a deal for Jimmy Butler during the NBA Draft and then turnaround and signed free agent Jeff Teague to take over the point guard position. Minnesota now has Butler to go along with Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns. It may not be a championship-winning team that Thibodeau has put on the court, but again it can definitely get to the playoffs and compete.
Eastern Conference teams did not make major moves. The Boston Celtics signed Gordon Hayward, but the team may not be able to top the Cavaliers even despite Cleveland getting one more year older. The Philadelphia 76ers signed J.J. Redick as a veteran presence, but it still won’t be enough to top LeBron James.
All eyes will be on the Western Conference this upcoming season. The competition will definitely be tighter. The Eastern Conference appears to be more wide open from the Nos. 3 to 8 seeds, but it is going to be a two-team race between the Cavaliers and the Celtics.