The NBA’s Western Conference has always been the best the NBA has had to offer. People have been calling for the NBA to change up the conferences to balance out the power of the West and the weakness of the East. An example of bad conference parity is looking at the best division in the West, the Southwest Division and the worst division in the East, the Atlantic Division.
The Southwest Division may have all five teams at more than .500 by the end of the season. They champion the NBA’s best record, the Memphis Grizzlies, who are sitting at 15-2 and the NBA’s best up-and-coming star-studded team with the 7-8 New Orleans Pelicans. The division also contains the three most important teams in the state: the Rockets, Mavericks and the 2013-2014 NBA champion Spurs.
The Atlantic Division holds by far the worst franchise in the NBA with Philadelphia sitting at 0-17. It also holds three under .500 bottom feeders in the Nets, Celtics and Knicks. The Raptors are the only thing making the division look good as they sit at an Eastern Conference best 13-4.
Southwest Division team followers know the struggle of having to compete every night against top competition, while a single team like the Raptors crushes the lesser competition.
As a frustrated Mavs fan, I watched as they finished second to last during the 2013-2014 season in the Southwest with a 49-33 record which was just good enough to claim the final playoff spot.
On the other end of the spectrum, the 48-34 Toronto Raptors team that wouldn’t have even made the playoffs in the West won the Atlantic division in the East last year. The NBA refuses to change the system and instead leaves a good Western Conference team like the Phoenix Suns out of the playoffs at the same record of 48-34.
The most condemning stat of all comes from last year’s two top teams in the East: the Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers. If they were moved to the West, they would be only the fourth and fifth best teams. The other six seeds in the East wouldn’t have even made the playoffs.
I understand that last year was by far the worst example of the East-West comparison, but since the NBA’s existence the conversation has always been that the East brings two or three powers into the playoffs that blow away the competition while the West beats each other up. The NBA finals look fair because a much better West team is run down from three rounds of rough play, while a lesser East powerhouse has taken a jog through the competition.
A solution to the problem is to take the NBA’s top 16 teams and put them against each other. The East would have to step up it’s game and in the process create a better NBA for everyone to watch.