Is the East the better conference?

Mar. 04, 2010 - Miami, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - epa02065582 Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant (L) drives the ball past Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade (R) during their game at the American Airlines arena in Miami, Florida, USA 04 March 2010. The Heat defeated the Lakers in overtime 114-111.

The West has dominated the East since the Bulls finished their second three-peat in 1998, winning nine of 12 NBA titles (Lakers 5, Spurs 4) and finishing with a better overall record in 11 of 12 seasons. (The East won the regular season matchup in 2008-09.)

Is this dominance about to end? With the Super Friends joining forces in Miami, the Heat go from playoff also-ran to bona fide contender. However, the Cavs and Raptors will both be lucky to win 30 games this year, so regular season wins-wise it may be a wash. Amare Stoudemire joined the Knicks, which is somewhat offset by the loss of David Lee to the Warriors. Carlos Boozer signed with the Bulls, which gives Chicago a legit shot at a Top 4 seed in the East.

The top three picks in the draft — John Wall, Evan Turner and Derrick Favors — all went to Eastern Conference teams, so the Wizards, Sixers and Nets should be better.

Charlotte lost Raymond Felton, but they should still be decent under Larry Brown. Atlanta retained Joe Johnson which means the Hawks should be good for 45-50 wins. The Bucks aren’t going to sneak up on anyone this year, but they added some talent and the continued maturation of Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut should put Milwaukee in that 45-50 win range as well.

In the West, the Lakers will continue to be excellent, while the Spurs’ addition of Tiago Splitter might put them back into contention. After that, who has a legit shot representing the West in the Finals? Dallas and Denver will be good, but both teams seem to be treading water. The Thunder should continue to improve, but they still seem to be a year or two away. The Rockets should be a lot better if Yao Ming can stay healthy. Same goes for the Frail Blazers, but the Suns and Jazz both figure to be a little worse.

On paper, it looks as if there could be a sea change in terms of conference power this season, but one thing’s for sure — proud teams in the West like the Lakers and Spurs aren’t going to go down without a fight.

And that’s why they play the games.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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