Is the East as Deep as We were Promised?

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Updated: November 2, 2021
02celtics

The narrative that has been driven into the NBA scene this offseason is that we shouldn’t be sleeping on the East and that the old Lebron Cavs and everyone else era had ended. Not only that the conference is now sporting a selection of true contenders in teams like the mighty Milwaukee Bucks and the OKC bash brothers in Brooklyn but that the East has depth. The first part with contenders is something that cannot be denied with Durant and Giannis quite possibly being 1A and 1B as the current kings of the league, however, the depth of quality tier two teams is becoming questionable. Watching the Celtics and Bulls who many had in their tier two rankings for the Eastern Conference left much to be desired.

For many segments of the game, the Bulls simply looked like the better team when casually watching the back-and-forth firepower their newly formed roster was able to apply on the offensive side of the ball. But then you’d look up and they’d be down 5 after committing a handful of turnovers. Chicago has green-lit nearly every player on the roster from distance including DeMar DeRozan who finally has found a jumper outside of 18 feet. And on a good night like the one they had in Boston, they will luck themselves into a good amount of wins throughout the season. Unfortunately, it appears no one has been assigned the boards as an average-sized Celtics squad grabbed countless offensive rebounds with ease.

But it wasn’t just the boards, often the Bulls would come up with a rebound or steal and then just carelessly give it away which gave the whole first half of the game an exhibition feel. Vucevic has struggled with his jumper early in the season but I’m sure it will return as he works himself into form. The thing that he will not find however is how to be any sort of presence in the paint as he rolled out the red carpet for anyone with a green clover stamp on their wrist several times per quarter. Their current stretch of games that lay ahead will start to expose the fact that many had assumed, that this franchise has a lot of good players it’s just not a great team.

They have no defensive identity, and the problem is centered around their center and now the loss of Patrick Williams at power forward. Another problem is that LaVine and his recent thumb injury that is wrapped up quite intensely appears to have severely affected his ability to shoot comfortably. And for anyone who has had a thumb injury before knows it is something that can be a lifelong issue and sometimes never fully heals. All that said, with all the problems they still took the W in Boston Garden after being down 19 in the 3rd. That really had less to do with Chicago and was more about the Celtics still unable to figure out who is their Alpha down the stretch of games.

The narrative is old now with these young wings and is on the verge of being boring. Two of the best young two-way wings in basketball and yet they looked better when they’re staggered because at least we see some of the fire that we want from both of them when they share the court together. It may be an early overaction but it has been floated over the pods the last two years so maybe it is actually late, Boston should accept that the Eastern Conference appearances were nice, but their current roster is simply not built to win a title. They should take a democrat vote with everyone in the front office between J-Brown and Tatum and decide which one to keep and which one to trade for a truckload of young talent. Although Brown has the juice and Tatum may never find it, it’s hard to imagine they don’t keep the 6”10 forward with the MVP ceiling in Jason.

It is unlikely this scenario plays out unless they are seriously suffering come the All-Star break and there is narrative-driven momentum pressing against the trade deadline because if either was traded that player would tip the scales for the title. In exchange for that weapon, Boston may be able to get an ungodly amount of assets for Jaylen Brown, especially on his 24 million dollar contract. As for the Eastern Conference as a whole, it’s early, and there is no reason to write off anyone entirely just yet, but when it’s all said and done, the West as the dominant conference sure looks like it will be the narrative that takes over the league once again.

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