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It is amazing how the move of a single player to the Western Conference can alter the the Eastern Conference landscape so abruptly.

Lebron James will be signing a 4-year contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, leaving little doubt that Boston is the powerhouse of the East. The 76'ers are still in the running for the services of superstar Kawhi Leonard, but they would certainly have to give up part of their core to acquire him.

Even if that occurs, it is still doubtful that Philly could overcome such a potent Celtics squad. A projected starting-5 of Kyrie Irving, Al Horford, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, when healthy and firing on all cylinders, simply appears omnipotent. This is the Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett on the Celtics status in the East:

The Celtics were the favorite to win the 2019 Eastern Conference championship at dusk last night.

Before the sun could set completely on the first day of July, the Celtics were, in pure Bostonian terms, the wicked favorite.

After taking LeBron James to seven games in the East final without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, the Cleveland colossus has been cleared from their path. At least in regards to the playoffs on this side of the Mississippi, LeBron is LeGone.

Milwaukee and Toronto will both field strong teams, but I don't see them as serious contenders for the Eastern Conference Title. On the surface, it may look like The King's decision to go to LA was based more on family and bright lights than another Title, but you can bet he will be seeking more talent around him.

Houston center Clint Capela is meeting with the Lakers, but he is a restricted free agent, and the Rockets can match any offer. Kawhi could end up in Los Angeles, but it would require some key players in return for Gregg Popovich to pull the trigger on that deal.

So this season's playoff Finals may just come down to the Celtics versus the Lakers once again. It could be Danny Ainge against Magic Johnson- deja vu all over again. And don't forget. The Kawhi Leonard-to-Boston scenario has been a major, often heated, conversation piece in the comment section of our articles. That still has a slight chance of coming down. But frankly, no matter where Leonard ends up, Boston is the team to beat in the East. I can't see that changing.

Follow Tom at TomLaneHC

Photo via Ken Blaze/USA TODAY Sports

Tom Lane 7/02/2018 07:17:00 AM Edit
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