The Warriors remain far and away the best team in the NBA headed into next season, and even behind them the Western Conference is absolutely stacked. With Paul George, Jimmy Butler, and Paul Millsap headed West (and Gordon Hayward the only star switching to the East), the star disparity is even more pronounced: The West could field TWO All-Star teams better than the East, writes Tom Haberstroh.
There’s the Cavs and the Celtics in the East, and not much depth of legit viable title contenders beyond that. Western Conference owners are, of course, continuing to notice that the seeding is lopsided against their interests. Zach Lowe talked to two Western Conference owners who would like to see playoff seeding change:
Three seasons ago, Suns owner Robert Sarver proposed seeding postseason teams 1-16 by record regardless of conference. Mark Cuban pitched a temporary realignment plan. “The commissioner’s office was not interested,” Sarver emailed ESPN.com this week. “The Eastern teams don’t like it.” The league has argued that schedule imbalance and over-long travel make a 1-16 system too cumbersome.
The issue is not going away. Other West teams have suggested tweaks during informal talks with the league office, sources say. “It needs to be addressed,” Cuban emailed ESPN.com on Thursday. “Seven of the 10 smallest markets are in the West. I really believe Eastern teams know they can get by doing less, and [in some cases] make the playoffs. Because they are larger markets, they will sell tickets and advertising, and get viewers. They get the best of both worlds.”
The playoffs would be far more compelling in the foreseeable future by seeding it 1-16. If the Cavs and Warriors are healthy headed into the 2018 postseason under the current rules, you can’t say with a straight face that there will be actual stakes in the series before the conference finals. Last year, the two teams lost a combined one game before the NBA Finals.
It would also provide more of a spark for the regular season. For example, do you think LeBron would be resting games if it meant possibly getting stuck on the same side of the bracket as Golden State?
With charter jets, the travel really shouldn’t be too cumbersome to have all rounds have potential for inter-coastal matchups. For 20 years now, we’ve all been waiting for the pendulum to switch back from a deeper West to a more formidable East, but there’s no sign it’s happening anytime soon. How much longer will this conference disparity endure before NBA owners collectively address playoff seeding?