For half a decade the NBA was a ferocious battle out West to see who would play LeBron James’ Eastern Conference champions in the NBA finals. No more. The battle out West rages on, but there are real skirmishes in the East now. Anybody could emerge, says no less a basketball eminence than Spurs maestro Gregg Popovich. Asked after his defending champion Spurs lost to the Wizards whether Washington had a title shot, Popovich replied, “Why not?”
Spurs point guard Tony Parker, a one-time NBA Finals MVP, agreed. Parker said the Wizards are “legit” and that they’re “gonna go far in the playoffs… [But] it’ll be tough because in the East you have Chicago, you have other great teams.” Other great teams. That’s the story of a power shift, with the East gaining. And besides the surging Atlanta Hawks, nobody looks better than the Wizards, who have all the playoff tools–size, speed, defensive intensity and spread-floor shooting. Tools they tested by going deep into the second round last year. Why not? That’s pretty high praise from Popovich.