On Monday, The Comeback’s Sean Keeley wrote how the NBA’s Eastern Conference may not need to exist any longer, now that DeMarcus Cousins is the latest in-his-prime All-Star to join the Golden State Warriors.
However, the Eastern Conference does need to exist… so that people can debate if an Eastern Conference All-Star team could defeat the Warriors.
Off the bat, I’m going to say no- the All-Star team couldn’t in one scenario, but could in another. Before I get into why, here’s how I think the team’s starting five would break down:
Golden State Warriors
PG: Steph Curry
SG: Klay Thompson
SF: Draymond Green
PF: Kevin Durant
C: DeMarcus Cousins
Eastern Conference All-Stars:
PG: Kyrie Irving
SG: DeMar DeRozan
SF: Gordon Hayward
PF: Giannis Antetokounmpo
C: Joel Embiid
If we’re just looking at starting fives, I think you could easily make a case that Golden State would win. Once you get to the benches, well the Eastern Conference is starting to build its case for a series W.
Golden State: Jordan Bell, Quinn Cook, Andre Iguodala, Nick Young, Shaun Livingston, etc.
Eastern Conference: Al Horford, Bradley Beal, Goran Dragic, Kevin Love, Kristaps Porzingis, Victor Oladipo, John Wall, Kyle Lowry, and Ben Simmons are among the possibilities.
If we look at the depth of each team, the Eastern Conference would easily win and anyone who tries to argue otherwise is foolish. The Warriors’ starting five is great, but what happens when they need to take a breather? A lineup of Bell, Cook, Iguodala, and company isn’t going to do well against a lineup of Oladipo, Porzingis, Simmons, Horford, and Dragic.
So for the sake of this argument, let’s take a look at the numbers and see who would win in a battle of the starting fives. Here are how each team compares when you add up the starting five’s stats:
*For the Eastern Conference I used Hayward’s 2016-2017 stats for averaging.*
These teams at first come across as pretty even. The East’s starting five averages more points per game and a higher field goal percentage, but Golden State wins the rebound and three-point percentage battles. Where these teams really break apart is experience and playing together, and that’s where I have to side with the Warriors.
Everyone — except the newest addition, DeMarcus Cousins — has a ton of experience in seven-game series and know they all play well together. In reality, Cousins is there to get rebounds and control Embiid down low.
Speaking of defense, the Warriors have an edge here as well. Durant could probably contain Antetokounmpo, forcing the East to rely more on their guards to score. And it’s not like Irving and DeRozan would have an easy task against Curry and Thompson. That leaves us with Hayward vs. Green. Draymond Green has been on the All-NBA First or Second Defensive team each of the past four years. Gordon Hayward, meanwhile, has never made either.
At the end of the day, it theoretically could be a toss up between the two teams, as both are loaded. But I believe in experience and defense, and have a feeling the Warriors would easily win a seven-game series. Would it all go seven games? I have no idea, but I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if the Warriors won it in five.
Let’s just scrap the playoffs next year and play this out shall we?