This NBA offseason was one of the most consequential in recent memory, with a number of big trades and major signings taking place. Despite all of these moves, one thing was clear: the balance of power in the league drastically shifted as a lot of talent from the Eastern Conference moved to the Western Conference.
According to FiveThirtyEight, 22 of the top 30 players in the NBA are currently playing in the Western Conference following all the major moves in free agency. This would give the Eastern Conference the least amount of top 30 players in the modern era (since 1976 NBA-ABA merger) and the Western Conference the most top 30 players.
The difference between the talent levels in the conferences will show on-court next season, despite the fact that the West was already the superior conference prior to the offseason. ESPN’s Tom Habersoth reported that the West was already an impressive 246-204 (.557) against the East last season.
Following Jimmy Butler’s move to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the West now has 10 of the 15 All-NBA players from last season. They also have nine of the 10 All-Defensive Players, including five of the last six Defensive Player of the Year winners. The West even has four of the six MVP winners currently in the league.
This offseason disparity really takes shape when you look at the All-Star level players who have switched conferences. There were seven players who switched conferences this offseason, either in free agency or via trade, who had made at least one All-Star game in last five seasons.
The Eastern Conference only got one of these players, Gordon Hayward. Hayward left the Utah Jazz to join the Boston Celtics after making his first All-Star appearance last season. This was by far the East’s biggest move since the Celtics were the No. 1 seed last season and also have an array of young talent and draft picks.
In contrast, the Western Conference added six players who have been named All-Stars within the last five seasons. The Oklahoma City Thunder traded for Paul George to pair him up with reigning MVP Russell Westbrook. The Timberwolves added Jeff Teague and traded for Jimmy Butler to play alongside young studs Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
The Denver Nuggets added Paul Millsap to their explosive offense, while the Los Angeles Lakers acquired Brook Lopez from the Brooklyn Nets. Lastly, Rajon Rondo signed a one-year, $3 million deal to join the New Orleans Pelicans. Despite his last All-Star appearance being five years ago he will try to help Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins make the playoffs.
The West’s six All-Star additions have a combined 14 All-Star Appearances in the last five seasons, while the East’s addition only has one. It doesn’t stop there, as the six new West players have a combined seven All-Defensive Team appearances and four All-NBA Team appearances in the last five seasons. In contrast, the East has added no All-Defensive or All-NBA players from the last five seasons.
[Featured Image by Sue Ogrocki/AP Images]