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Celtics exec Danny Ainge is never complacent - never sits on his laurels. When asked about the effect of Lebron James heading west to the Lakers and no longer blocking the Celtics path to the NBA Finals, Danny responded in exactly the manner we have come to accept.

His response was that the Eastern Conference is still going to be tough, citing Toronto, Milwaukee and Washington as three examples of strong Eastern teams. As Mark Van Deusen indicated in the tweet below, we are not buying it.

The word tough is a relative term. Taking a look at the semi-final teams from each conference, how to Boston, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Toronto match up against Golden State, Houston, New Orleans and Utah. And let's not forget the Lakers in the West. Lebron James seems to be able to take almost any team, talented or otherwise, into the Finals.


The Warriors recently added a guy by the name of DeMarcus Cousins to an already-omnipotent group, and even his late arrival to action this coming season at reduced effectiveness is still scary. If Clint Capella finally gets signed by the Rockets, they will not be going away.

The Pelicans getting into the Western Semis without Boogie Cousins was spectacular. Anthony Davis often seems unstoppable. The Jazz have Rudy Gobert, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles and Ricky Rubio. They just acquired Grayson Allen in the recent draft, and they will be a force.

And the Lakers are not through building their roster. We have all learned not to count The King out. He surprised us by going to a team that is seemingly a non-contender for a Championship, but he is there now and his team may now be in contention - or will be with other moves.

So Danny, we are not buying it. A healthy Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Daniel Theis? If both Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier reappear for the full season, this crew seems as unbeatable in the East as I can imagine. They will have strong competition in the West, but in the Eastern Conference, disregarding relativity, they are just plain tough.

Follow Tom at @TomLaneHC

Photo via Darren McCollester/Getty Images

Tom Lane 7/12/2018 05:17:00 AM Edit
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