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Does the East have what it takes?

In the last 10 NBA seasons we’ve seen four different teams rise to the top and win the championship. The ’90s were dominated by a Chicago Bulls squad that could have potentially won 10 championships in a row by themselves if it wasn’t for their front office ruining perhaps one of the best dynasties the NBA has ever seen.

Other than the Bulls, it has been three teams from the Western Conference who won titles within the last decade. The Rockets won back-to-back titles from the ’94-96 seasons. The Spurs won a title during the season that featured the NBA lockout, a shortened ’98-99 season. For the last two years it has been the Los Angeles Lakers back on top of the NBA. Their last run for greatness was in the ’80s, when Magic and the Lakers were “Showtime.” There are teams out there that can beat this Lakers team, but are there any from the Eastern Conference that can win the title against a team from the top teams of the West?

In my humble opinion, the top three teams from the East would have to be the Bucks, the Nets and the Sixers. These teams don’t all have the best records in the East, but they do make up the best that the East has to offer.

Milwaukee just needs to work on playing consistently on both ends of the floor. They have minimal problems scoring the ball on the offensive end. They have many weapons, from Ray Allen to Glenn Robinson to Sam Cassell. Then we can add to the mix, Tim Thomas and rookie Michael Redd off the bench. All these players can score. But championship teams gotta be able to play well on both ends my friends. Right now the Bucks are hurting for defense. Milwaukee is 20th in the NBA for points allowed at 96.8. If the Bucks can throw some suffocating defense into their bag of tricks, only then may they have a chance in the playoffs.

Next are the New Jersey Nets, a surprise to basketball fans everywhere this season. Who would have thought that New Jersey would be atop the East at 39-19? Not many, not even many in New Jersey. Regardless of what we thought, here they are. Probably the biggest reason is their badass point guard, Jason Kidd. He is first in the league in triple-doubles this season with six, second in the league in assists (10 per/game) and second in the league in steals (2.19 per/game). This team also possesses all the offensive weapons they need with Keith Van Horn (15.3 ppg), Kenyon Martin (15.0 ppg), Kidd (14.5) and Kerry Kittles (13.6 ppg)-a very nice, balanced attack. They can even D it up at almost every position. The only place where they lack size and talent is in the middle. Teams like the Lakers and Spurs can walk all over this weakness. But I can see the Nets coming out of the East because they are extremely well rounded.

Finally, the 76ers of Philadelphia. They made it to the finals last season. Dikembe Mutombo rebounds, plays defense, and even scores 11.2 ppg this season, averaging a double-double with an 11.3 rebound average. Eric Snow does a nice job of running their offense, and defending opposing guards, along with Aaron McKie. The major scoring punch, as we all know, comes from league scoring leader Allen Iverson at 30.8 points per game. They went to the finals and played the Lakers last season, but they lacked on the defensive end like many of the other teams of the East.

I asked whether any team from the East could bring the title back to their conference. I don’t see it happening just yet. Teams in the West are all around better in more facets of the game. Dallas, Minnesota, Sacramento and Los Angeles all hold better records at this point and face better competition more often against Western teams to get those records. Doesn’t look like any team from the East will be able to stop whoever comes out of the West, whether it be L.A., San Antonio or Portland. And let me tell you, nobody can stop Portland when they’re on top of their game.