Another NBA season is upon us with a little more than a week left before teams gather for the start of training camp.

And once again, the Western Conference is where they will play hardball.

All one has to do is look at the biggest transaction from the offseason. It could be argued that the Western Conference teams came out on the better end of a four-team, 12-player trade that sent All-Star center Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers, established forward Andre Iguodala to Denver, center Andrew Bynum to Philadelphia and emerging swingman Arron Afflalo to Orlando.

The deal serves as an indication that the West again holds the league’s overall balance of power with so many talent-rich teams. Not since the lockout-shortened 1998-1999 season has the Eastern Conference’s eight playoff teams had an overall better record than the eight from the West. In those fourteen years, a West squad has won 10 NBA Championships (five for the Lakers, four for San Antonio, one for Dallas) and there appear to be more Western Conference teams — among the legitimate title contenders — poised to unseat the defending champion Miami Heat this season.

– Reported by Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal