x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

NBA: The West is loaded while the Miami Heat are breaking away

With no visible rivals in the fold, the Miami Heat are running away in the Eastern Conference while the Western Confernece is packed full of strong teams.

Derrick Rose, of the Chicago Bulls, is still coming back from knee surgery from last May. Until he returns, it appears the Miami Heat will advance to the NBA Finals without any other East Conference team to challenge them. Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images
Derrick Rose, of the Chicago Bulls, is still coming back from knee surgery from last May. Until he returns, it appears the Miami Heat will advance to the NBA Finals without any other East Conference team to challenge them. Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

The NBA is tilting towards the Pacific Ocean again, an awkward imbalance that does not flatter.

In the Eastern Conference, the Miami Heat rule. No problem there; they are champions, after all. But they are so much better than every other team in the East that the suspense in the conference race already is over. Barring injuries, you can ink in the Heat in for a third consecutive trip to the NBA finals. It is not clear who is the second-best team in the East, but they're so far behind the Heat it does not matter.

Meanwhile, the Western Conference is packed with strong teams. At least three, the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder and LA Clippers appear capable of reaching the finals. It can be argued that six of the league's seven best teams (Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies) are from the West. And the West proves its superiority on the court; the conference is 174-128 versus the East.

This is not a new development: 10 of the past 14 NBA titles have been won by a West team.

All the intrigue, all the competitive basketball is in one conference. Even the second-level West teams (Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers, LA Lakers) could probably give any team in the East, aside from the Heat, a good workout in a seven-game play-off series.

This is not good for the league. The East's only hope seems to be that Derrick Rose returns soon and makes the Chicago Bulls into a serious rival for the Heat.

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