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The Rise of The East

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

(AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

For years, the East has been overcome and bullied by the Western Conference’s supreme power. For years, the East has been known as the “lesser” conference. But this year, that might all change. In fact, the East may actually be BETTER than the West this year.

It all started with one major move: Kevin Durant to the Golden State Warriors. It made Golden State an almost “dream team” while also took away Oklahoma City from contention.

Dwight moving to Atlanta didn’t help the West get better either, as it weakened Houston from contender to bottom-feeder.

Now for the East, it’s just as (if not, more) competitive than the West. Sure, you have Cleveland. The defending champs who deserve to be the favorites. But there’s also a whole lot of teams ready to make it interesting. There're at least 6 teams who actually have a legitimate chance to make it to the NBA Finals.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Cleveland Cavaliers

The defending NBA champs and back to back Eastern Conference champions. Of course, they have a chance to not only make it to the finals but actually win it. Some could even argue they have the BEST chance. When you have the best player in the world and a top 5 point guard in the league on your team, those opportunities will come quite often.

Boston Celtics

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Boston was scary last year, with young guys, a young coach, and an overall inexperienced core. Now, with Al Horford and a whole new season under their belt, the Celtics are big boys now.

The Cavs face a formidable threat if Boston plays to their potential. Marcus Smart could also be in for a breakout year, and that would even further legitimize this team. Even in the worst case scenario, it would be pretty hard for this team NOT to finish in the top 3.

Toronto Raptors

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The Raptors took a huge step up last season when they made it to the Eastern Conference finals. They even managed to make a little noise before ultimately being bested by the Cavs powerhouse. This year, with practically the same roster, they have another shot to prove their strength.

The only question here tho is if this roster can manage to come up with a formula to beat Cleveland. They might not, but they certainly have a lot of time to come up with one. It will be interesting to see what they come up with.

Indiana Pacers

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Some people may say this is a long shot. Those people just don’t understand the quality of players that Indiana picked up this season. Thaddeus Young, a tenacious, athletic rebounding big man. Al Jefferson, a veteran post scorer who anchors the middle. Jeff Teague, a supremely underrated pass-first point guard.

Between those three additions and a superstar in Paul George, you have yourself a team that could very well find itself playing for a championship. A new coach also brings in a new system. And while nobody knows how good the system will be yet, it could bring out the best in each of these guys.

New York Knicks

Carmelo Anthony Knicks

This team is expected by many to be kicked out of the first round. Many see them as a non-threatening group of injury prone has-beens. But if this roster can manage to stay healthy, they can be so much more than that.

Derrick Rose can still finish under the rim. Joakim Noah can still play rock solid defense under the rim. Carmelo Anthony can still put that ball in the hoop like there’s no tomorrow. There’s more here than people realize, and no all this Knicks team has to do is prove them wrong and make the other contenders on this list feel their wrath.

Atlanta Hawks

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Nobody can really predict what the Hawks might be like this year. But it’s not too far of a stretch to say they might be pretty good. Just two years ago, they were a top 2 team in the East. They were the model for offensive ball movement (the Warriors BEFORE the Warriors).

Now, they’ve gained All-star center Dwight Howard. He might not be his old self again, but he brings elite rim protection and an inside finisher to a team who already had a good system in place. The Hawks have the blueprint to win, now it’s just a matter of bringing the pieces together. Still, think the East is weak? Might want to read this list again, because there are 6 teams in this conference that could find themselves playing in the Finals.

We haven’t seen this type of competition from this conference in a long time, so I'm sure I won't be the only one who finds this recent chance very interesting. Like always, only time will tell who comes out on top, but it’s not such a sure thing anymore.

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