It’s time to talk about competitive imbalance, folks.
Sports media is pretty much located in the Northeast, or Southern California. In basketball’s case this is particularly true. The east coast media has a particular liking for good teams in the East. Well, that’s somewhat true for Atlanta. They love themselves Cleveland and Chicago. Cleveland because they have King James, and Chicago because “Jordan played there.” Show your reverence. In the West, they love the Warriors … for now. Anyway, there’s been some talk about making the playoffs all 16 teams in a seeding contest, but sports media definitely does not want that. There would be no hope of playoffs in South Beach at the moment, so sportswriters and broadcasters would end up in places like Oklahoma City or Toronto for the playoffs.
But here’s what I’ve noticed. The East is junk. Not that junk, but garbage.
Take a look at the NBA standings. The Grizzlies, Rockets and Spurs are within a half-game of each other. One of them will probably finish 6th in the West. Those teams would be in second in the East, ahead of the vaunted Cavaliers. But those numbers don’t tell the whole story.
Memphis is 19-10 against the East. Houston is 22-7. San Antonio is 23-7. Those teams dominated the East. Not even that tells the whole story.
Without the East, the Mavericks might not be in the playoffs. They are only 26-22 against the West, but 21-9 against the East. Phoenix, clearly out of the playoffs in the West would make the playoffs in the East. Not only that, comfortably in the playoffs. They are 21-28 against the West, but 18-12 against the East, a .600 winning percentage.
More story: The Thunder, unlikely to make the playoffs, are 20-9 against the East. They would be the 6th seed in the East on their record alone; their .689 winning percentage against the East would put them second overall. Even a team like The Lakers were substantially better against the East. They are 12-18 against the East, 8-40 against the West. They’ve won 4 more games against a conference they’ve played 18 fewer games against.
If it were a 16-team format, the West would thoroughly dominate the East. The Hawks would still be very good, but the rest of the conference falls even further back. The Cavaliers would be seventh overall. The Pelicans, Thunder and Suns would all make the playoffs. Cleveland would start its playoff run against the Raptors, a team in third in their conference. The Warriors, instead of getting a team with an MVP candidate in the first round, would face off against the Milwaukee Bucks.