East will put Heat on Lakers

Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant holds the Larry O'Brien trophy during the NBA Championship parade on...

Los Angeles Lakers Kobe Bryant holds the Larry O'Brien trophy during the NBA Championship parade on June 21, 2010. (REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson)

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:08 AM ET

The reshaping of the NBA landscape is now complete, the retooling of teams reduced to their final strokes and the rebuild among some in full swing.

Now that the summer of unprecedented free agency and unparalleled spending is about to come to a close ó if it hasnít already ó the power has swung to the East, but the team to beat resides in the West.

With the Denver Nuggets wrestling with the long-term futures of Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups, not to mention the uncertain health of head coach George Karl, with the San Antonio Spurs getting older and more vulnerable, the class of the West remains the Los Angeles Lakers, the two-time reigning NBA champions who added Steve Blake, Matt Barnes, Theo Ratliff and re-signed Derek Fisher to a core that features Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest.

No team has a better third option than Miami, where Chris Bosh goes from being the face of the Raptors franchise to the third wheel on a roster that features Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.

While the Lakers remain the NBAís elite, the East is by far the deepest conference with Miami, Orlando, Boston and Chicago all capable of making it to the NBA final.

Phoenix isnít as good as the team that played in the Western final this past spring because the Suns cannot replace the loss of Amare Stoudemire.

Houston added a lot of size, but Yao Mingís foot is such an unknown that the Rockets are likely to fizzle.

Portland has potential, but Greg Odenís health is a concern, as always.

Utah will try to make do for the absence of Carlos Boozer, but Al Jefferson is not the answer.

Dallas will compete, but the Mavs arenít as deep as the Lakers and they donít have the athleticism and length to match up against Oklahoma City, which added shooting threats in Morris Peterson and Daequan Cook and size in rookie Cole Aldrich.

In the West, the best teams are the Lakers and the Thunder. Teams on the rise are Sacramento and Golden State, but each is not ready to compete for a playoff berth. Teams that have flatlined are New Orleans and Memphis.

And the Clippers, well, theyíre the Clippers, but at least Blake Griffin is finally ready to make his pro debut.

Minnesota will be athletic, but the roster is too young, immature and too prone to self-destruct.

Depth

The East is where one finds the greatest intrigue and by far the deepest field of bottom feeders.

The Big Three, in no particular order, will be Miami, Boston and Orlando.

The next tier begins and ends with Chicago, followed by Milwaukee and Atlanta, leaving a handful to battle for the final two playoff seeds, including Charlotte, which made its post-season debut as the Bobcats, only to get swept by the Magic.

Raymond Feltonís departure to the Knicks leaves a huge hole at the point position, but Charlotte has two legit wings in Stephen Jackson and Gerald Wallace.

That leaves Philly, Cleveland, New Jersey and New York poised to vie for the final post-season berth with Toronto, Detroit and Indiana bringing up the rear.


Videos

Photos