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Column: Western Conference proves NBA system needs overhaul

By Eddie Leonard
On April 2, 2014

The Eastern and Western Conferences are very lopsided when it comes to competition. In fact, nine of the top eleven teams in the NBA are from the Western Conference.
If you take a look at the overall playoff picture it is easy to see the disparity. Right now the Dallas Mavericks are slightly out of the playoff picture, sitting in ninth place in the west with a 44-31 record, while the Toronto Raptors are coasting comfortably with a third place bid in the Eastern Conference despite their 42-32 record. It is mind boggling that the Raptors would not even be in the playoffs if they were a Western Conference team.
One of the biggest disgraces about the disparity of winning between the two conferences is the nightly competition. The teams in the east play the same large pool of subpar conference opponents, while the teams in the west fight to survive against playoff contenders every night. However, shockingly the Western Conference teams still manage to hold better records than Eastern Conference teams. The teams in the east cannot even win consistently against terrible teams.
The Sixers are the best example of an Eastern Conference poster boy; they bring their scuba gear to every game in preparation for their tanking season. The Sixers managed to tie an NBA record by losing 26 straight games but somehow were able to beat the Pistons by 25 points to avoid being the sole owner of the shameful record. Ironic much? Meanwhile the Western elite Spurs have won a season high 18 straight games. It comes down to competitive nature, and unfortunately that is also lopsided in the west's favor.
If those two examples don't convince you, look at the worst teams in each conference. The Utah Jazz is the worst team in the west, but they still have an eight game lead on the east's bottom feeder: the Milwaukee Bucks.
The way the current playoff system is set up is not healthy for the NBA. People are not going to tune in to watch the Miami Heat throttle the Hawks in the first round.
The current playoff system of eight teams per conference does not intrigue the average fan and it does not award the teams that actually have winning records. Take the Dallas Mavericks for example. The Mavericks fans attend 82 games a year to cheer on their team but they may not be able to in the postseason because their team happens to be in the Western Conference. How do you explain to Dirk Nowitski that his team is not eligible for the playoffs even though they have a better record than six out of the eight teams in the east that are making the playoffs?
It is a hard decision to make, but definitely something NBA executives should discuss. Maybe the playoff system should be the best 16 teams in the NBA, so it is fair for everyone. I know no other sport does it this way, but no other sport is as lopsided when it comes to conference competition as the NBA. Adam Silver better find a solution before television ratings dip during the early playoff rounds.  

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