With LeBron James transitioning to the Western Conference this summer after signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, the East - from which a LeBron-led team has emerged in each of the last eight years - is now wide open for a new contender to establish dominance.
The Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, and Toronto Raptors are projected as the favorites to reach the NBA Finals in 2018-19, but All-Star point guard John Wall feels his Washington Wizards should also be in the conversation.
"I feel like we’re all equal," Wall told Yahoo Sports' Michael Lee. "None of them won a championship. This is no knock on no other team. Don’t get me wrong. Boston is a hell of a team. Philly has great young talent with those guys (Joel) Embiid, (Ben) Simmons. And Toronto, losing DeMar (DeRozan), they still get Kawhi (Leonard).
"Y’all might have been to the Eastern Conference finals, where we haven’t been to, but none of y’all were going to the Finals. It was one guy going to the Finals. Ain’t nobody separated from nothing. I know one guy that separated himself from the Eastern Conference every year and that was LeBron James and the Cavs. Other than that ... if you lose in the second round or the conference finals, you still didn’t get to your ultimate goal."
Since Wall entered the Association first overall in 2010, the Wizards have qualified for the playoffs on four occasions, but never advanced past the conference semifinals. This includes last season's opening-round loss to the No. 1-seeded Raptors in six games following a 43-win campaign.
In an effort to strengthen the roster and surround Wall and fellow All-Star Bradley Beal with better supporting pieces, general manager Ernie Grunfeld went out and acquired shooting guard Austin Rivers in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers, while also bringing aboard Jeff Green and three-time Defensive Player of the Year, Dwight Howard.
Wall dismissed the notion that the NBA has seen the best from Washington with its current core, and that 2017's seven-game second-round series against Boston is as good as it's going to get.
"That’s funny. How have we peaked? I think this is the deepest team we’ve had and I feel very comfortable with this team," Wall added.
"Everybody is going to put Boston No. 1, because that’s what you’re supposed to. They had a hell of a season with those guys coming back. You’ve got Philly, they got their pieces. I feel like those top four, those top five - you can’t forget Milwaukee, what they have with Giannis (Antetokounmpo) - I feel like it’s all cluttered. I put us right there."