Sports Out West

5 favorites in the Eastern Conference after LeBron James return

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LeBron James‘ decision to return to his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers altered the landscape of the Eastern Conference. The balance of power has shifted within the conference, moving away from Miami – a team forced to rely on its aging stars. Here are 5 teams in the East that are the favorites to win the Conference.

Washington Wizards

With the emergence of their dynamic young point guard, John Wall, the Wizards have become a team to watch in the Eastern Conference. Wall was paired with Bradley Beal in the backcourt for the Wizards, forming a strong core that will keep the Wizards in contention for years to come. By acquiring free agent Paul Pierce, the Wizards will have a proven offensive contributor as well as veteran presence on a fairly young team.

Chicago Bulls

Many considered the Bulls to be one of the most feared teams in the league at the start of last season, but the loss of Derrick Rose in the first weeks of the season erased them from being contenders. The return of Derrick Rose, even if slightly removed from the level of play in his MVP season, will elevate their offense. The Bulls also landed one of the most coveted free agents of the summer in Pau Gasol, a versatile big man with strong post-game and excellent passing abilities.

Miami Heat

Despite the loss of the greatest basketball talent in the world, the Miami Heat still have two of the Big Three, each of whom has multiple All-Star appearances. They also managed to pick up Luol Deng, who will add scoring to the team, in addition to veterans Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts.

Indiana Pacers

The Eastern Conference finalists showed tremendous inconsistency over the course of last season, but looked extremely impressive in a number of stretches throughout the season. Paul George will continue to develop into arguably one of the best two-way talents in the league, and if the core remains intact this offseason (Roy Hibbert, Lance Stephenson), they may be the favorites in what is now a more wide open Eastern Conference.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cleveland Cavaliers were unimpressive last season, failing to make the playoffs once again. However, any team with the transcendent talent of LeBron James is instantly in the conversation for contenders. The Cavaliers also have a pool of young talent to surround LeBron with, that includes Andrew Wiggins, Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters, and Anthony Bennett. If these players are able to develop into successful pros, LeBron may be able to bring the title to a city that so desperately needs it.

Photo Credit: USA Today

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Kapil Kashyap

Kapil Kashyap is a Bay Area native and an expert on all things NBA. For more insight, be sure to follow him on Twitter.