How Much Better Is the NBA's Western Conference Than the Eastern Conference After LeBron's Lakers Move?

The NBA's Eastern Conference was already weak as hell last year. Then the greatest player in a generation decided to head West.

We're of course talking about LeBron James signing a four-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, leaving behind his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers for the second time and beginning a new chapter with the league's most storied franchise.

With his decision, James further diluted the talent pool of an already anemic Eastern Conference.

That in mind, Newsweek parsed through Basketball Reference's win-shares league leaders for last season, listing the top 30 players in each conference now that James has defected to the West. For the uninitiated, win-shares effectively estimate how many wins a player was responsible for throughout the course of a season—and, like any stat, taken alone it is imperfect, but it's generally considered a decent measurement for overall performance.

According to the stats collected by Newsweek, the top 30 players in the Western Conference totaled 279.3 win-shares last season. Post LeBron, the top 30 in the East, meanwhile, managed just 219.9. That's a difference of 54 wins or about a 25 percent gap between the West and the East.

To put that in perspective, the entirety of the NBA's top five in win-shares—according to Basketball Reference—came from the Western Conference: Houston's James Harden (15.4), Los Angeles's LeBron James (14), Minnesota's Karl-Anthony Towns (14), New Orleans' Anthony Davis (13.7) and Portland's Damian Lillard (12.6). The Eastern Conference's Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee) was sixth at 11.9.

There are quite a few caveats to this stat, of course. Some players are likely overrated by it—looking at you Karl-Anthony Towns—while some players are likely underrated by it (looking at you Draymond Green and Joel Embiid). Some players are absent who likely would have made the top 30 if not for injuries, such as the Spurs' Kawhi Leonard or the Celtics' Gordon Hayward. And some of the top players are likely to shift conferences in the weeks to come. But still the overall point stands: The Eastern Conference is really running low on top-level talent.

As the Associated Press's Tim Reynolds wrote on Twitter: "There are 7 MVPs currently active in the NBA. All play in the West. There are 16 players who have been first-team All-NBA selections active. 13 play in the West. West has guys with 168 All-Star appearances. East rosters have guys with 69 combined."

In other words: The Western Conference is chock full of firepower. The East is mostly water pistols.

How Much Better Is the NBA's Western Conference Than the Eastern Conference After LeBron's Lakers Move? | Sports