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Even without Kevin Love, Minnesota will make Western Conference tougher

This looks to be the kind of trade that makes both teams better. The Cavs have a third star to pair with LeBron and Kyrie Irving. The T-Wolves get three promising pieces, in solid power forward Thaddeus Young plus Andrew Wiggins and Anthony Bennett, the last two overall No. 1 picks.
by Berry Tramel Published: August 24, 2014
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photo - In this photo taken May 3, 2013, former Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Flip Saunders is introduced as the Timberwolves’ new president for basketball operations during an NBA basketball news conference in Minneapolis.  It's seems like an odd pairing at first. Saunders, the slick, media savvy executive who wears designer suits. Rick Adelman, the curmudgeonly coach, who dresses in all black every day and has no interest in small talk. Together, they represent this long-suffering franchise's best chance to become relevant again. (AP Photo/The Star Tribune,  Richard Sennott)
In this photo taken May 3, 2013, former Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Flip Saunders is introduced as the Timberwolves’ new president for basketball operations during an NBA basketball news conference in Minneapolis. It's seems like an odd pairing at first. Saunders, the slick, media savvy executive who wears designer suits. Rick Adelman, the curmudgeonly coach, who dresses in all black every day and has no interest in small talk. Together, they represent this long-suffering franchise's best chance to become relevant again. (AP Photo/The Star Tribune, Richard Sennott)

That’s 11 quality teams in the 15-team West, and only the Lakers, Jazz and Kings can be considered downtrodden. The landscape keeps getting more treacherous for the Thunder, which shares the Northwest Division with Minnesota and plays the Timberwolves four times.

Meanwhile, the East had just seven teams with at least 40 wins last season, and while Cleveland has made a huge leap up from the dregs, some of the East’s quality teams are sliding down. Brooklyn and Indiana foremost. And the Eastern Conference has five teams with virtually no hope for 2014-15: Orlando, Boston, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Detroit.

So the West just keeps getting tougher, while the East shuffles deck chairs. A mediocre West team gets better by trading its superstar and improves its long-term prospects as well. That’s potentially a trade for the ages.

And that’s why it’s better to be in the West. I know, that sounds counter-intuitive. The East offers an easier path, both to the playoffs and in the playoffs, once you’re there. But the West is the fast lane. The West is the fast heat. You’ve got to be sharp in the West. Got to be fine-tuned to stay tough in the West.

Teams find out how good they really are, playing in the West. You keep up, or you get run over. Get better, or get lost.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.

by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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