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The Eastern Conference just got a lot more interesting

Photo Credit: ChatSports.com

Photo Credit: ChatSports.com

The Eastern Conference has long been the inferior conference in the NBA, and while Thursday’s crazy trade deadline didn’t change that, there’s no doubting this year’s version of the East just got a whole lot more interesting.

The Miami Heat made the biggest upgrade of the day, acquiring Goran Dragic (and his brother, Zoran) from the Phoenix Suns in a three-team trade that also involved the New Orleans Pelicans. Dragic had expressed a desire to be traded several days earlier, and while it almost looked like the Suns would stubbornly hold onto the point guard, the trigger was finally pulled on a deal.

The acquisition of Dragic fills a huge need for the Heat at point guard. Miami had been using Mario Chalmers and Norris Cole at the point, and although that duo may have been fine when LeBron James was around, it didn’t cut it with James in Cleveland. Cole was sent to the Pelicans as part of the deal, leaving Chalmers as the backup point guard.

With Dragic, the Heat could be a dangerous team at the bottom of the East playoff picture. Miami is 22-30 and tied with the Charlotte Hornets in the final two playoff spots, but having a legitimate point guard in Dragic should get the Heat safely in the postseason as long as the team stays relatively healthy. And if Dwyane Wade can actually stay on the court in the postseason, Miami could be one tough out in the first round.

There were several other splashy moves that could have a big impact in the East. The sixth-seeded Milwaukee Bucks shockingly traded starting point guard Brandon Knight to the Suns (Phoenix got real crazy by acquiring Knight and trading away Isaiah Thomas to the Boston Celtics in addition to moving Dragic), but the Bucks ended up with 2014 Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, Tyler Ennis and Miles Plumlee.

It’s quite the bold move for Milwaukee to trade away Knight in the middle of a playoff push, but the point guard was about to get paid in the summer and Carter-Williams won’t be up for an extension for another few years. Carter-Williams isn’t the offensive player Knight is, but he’s blossoming into an excellent defender and will add even more length to the Bucks’ already strong defense. Ennis adds more depth at point guard and Plumlee is a solid rotational big.

The Detroit Pistons made noise as well, nabbing Reggie Jackson from the Oklahoma City Thunder in a three-team deal that also featured the Utah Jazz. D.J. Augustin had been playing well in relief of the injured Brandon Jennings, but the Pistons clearly feel Jackson is an upgrade over Augustin. The trade also cost Detroit Kyle Singler, who has been shooting the ball well this season. The Pistons made another smaller deal, bringing back Tayshaun Prince in exchange for Jonas Jerebko and Luigi Datome. It’s unclear if Prince will be bought out or not, and Detroit is currently two games out of the playoffs.

Other teams fighting for the playoffs in the East made trades as well. The Brooklyn Nets upgraded from Kevin Garnett to Thaddeus Young by sending Garnett back to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Celtics’ trade for Isaiah Thomas was a coup. And while the Indiana Pacers didn’t make any moves, Paul George could be back in a month.

Safe to say, the East has gotten much more intriguing than it was just a day ago.

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