The Western Conference Is A Tad Better Than Its Eastern Brethren

19 Feb

Just take the 8th seed from both conferences right now (Tuesday night at 10pm) and compare their records. The Philadelphia 76ers are 23-30 and on the verge of losing another to the Minnesota Freakin’ Timberwolves. The Sixers’ winning percentage is 43.4%. Now, the 8th seed of the West are the Denver Nuggets. They hold a 32-20 record and a 61.5% winning percentage. Uh, yeah. Only 5 teams in the West even have losing records. And one of those teams, the Sacremento Kings, actually has a winning record against the East.

So the East is pretty horrible, right? Or the West is just that damn good? Take your pick. But look at it another way. The 9th best team in the West is only 4.5 games off of the conference-best New Orleans Hornets. The 9th best team in the East is 19.5 games off pace from 1st place Boston. Hell, 3rd place Orlando is 10 games back! This divide is just sick. It’s cyclical, of course, but this cycle is just lasting longer and longer and longer. The conference divide has actually gotten greater during this season, and deals that send Jason Kidd to the Dallas Mavericks don’t do anything to stop that.

I oddly enjoy this great divide, if only because it gives a Sixers fan such as myself faint hope. Some may say it’s fake hope, but it’s hope nonetheless. Hope that this team is playoff bound and we will see meaningful basketball this season, even if we are simply fodder for the Boston Celtics. Then another side of me is disappointed at the thought of how much we would suck if we swapped places with a team like the Kings. This divide also likely frustrates fans in cities like Houston, Denver, and Golden State, who root for teams that aren’t any worse than the Orlando Magic, but the Magic will get to face a sub .500 team in the playoffs while these teams go against the Spurs and Hornets and Suns.

Sometimes the vast inequity between the two conferences is simply tough to swallow.  It creates the terrific Western Conference playoffs, but the maddeningly boring Eastern Conference bracket as well.  There is no great solution to this mess; indeed, we must simply sit back and enjoy the great basketball and suffer the bad.  This cycle WILL end.  It just has to end sometime, doesn’t it?

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4 Responses to “The Western Conference Is A Tad Better Than Its Eastern Brethren”

  1. Tom February 20, 2008 at 2:00 pm #

    I agree with you that the parity in the West shows its current superiority as a conference. Look no further than the Mark Stein’s Power Rankings, and you can see that 8 of the top 10 teams in the league are Western Conference teams. John Hollinger’s Power Rankings are as a little less Western biased, but I have trouble accepting them, because he stubbornly uses a formula so complicated Einstein might struggle to grasp it. Still, I wonder how the two dominant teams in the East, Detroit and Boston, would stack up against the West. Detroit is obviously the more experienced of the two, having won the Championship in 2004, while the trio leading Boston has a combined 0 Finals appearance. That being said, I feel like this year Boston may have the better pieces to make it through the East (it’s hard to argue against three perennial superstars in the playoffs after all). Once they get to the Finals, however, it’s a different story. As if the West weren’t already strong enough, the recent flurry of trades has only made it stronger. I would like nothing more than to see the Celtics fight their way through the East and win a Championship, so that all Boston fans can all forget about the Patriots. But, assuming the Celtics prove to be the best of the east and make it to the NBA Finals, I wonder how they will handle one of the Western teams with a dominant big man, teams such as Phoenix, Dallas, San Antonio, or Los Angeles. It seems, from watching the Celtics play, that unless Kendrick Perkins can somehow stay out of foul trouble, they really have no one with the size to match up. Kevin Garnett is obviously a great defensive player, all time great even, and while he could probably stay with Dirk Nowitzki, or maybe Tim Duncan (with whom he has not had historical success), I have a hard time picturing him handling someone as strong as Shaquille O’Neal, Amare Stoudemire or Andrew Bynum. You may recall the game earlier this season, when Dwight Howard pushed Garnett all over the floor, and Garnett was helpless to do much more than watch Howard dunk time and time again. I’m not saying that the Celtics can’t beat a team from the West. After watching the Super Bowl, I’ll assume anything is possible. Moreover, given the absolute dogfight that’s sure to ensue in the Western Conference playoffs, the Celtics might even have a small advantage going in to the Finals. Still, the Celtic’s certainly will have their work cut out for them against any of the elite Western Conference teams. And if they are truly the best of the East, then that means the rest of the East has an even tougher road ahead.

  2. Adeel February 20, 2008 at 3:24 pm #

    I have to admit that the quality of games for me often isn’t based on the quality of the teams, but how good the game is. A wild playoff game between two so-so teams beats a so-so game between two heavyweights.

  3. Chris February 20, 2008 at 6:59 pm #

    Quite a comment Tom, but I can’t root for the Celtics. I’m a Sixers fan.

  4. Bill B. February 21, 2008 at 11:13 pm #

    Have you heard Mike Greenberg’s (Mike & Mike) suggested changes for the NBA playoffs?

    It’s basically the NFL playoff system for the NBA, but the 3 and 6, and 4 and 5 teams play each other in a best-of-three series. The 1 seed plays the 4-5 winer and the 2 seed plays the 3-6 winner. Every series after the best-of-three round is a best-of-seven.

    Ironic that he suggested it this year, since cutting the playoff-eligible teams from 8 to 6 would be totally unfair to the Western Conference. Even with 8, one team is going to be sitting home while a team like the Sixers enter the first round (but will be promptly squashed by the 1 seed).

    The disparity between the East and West makes me wonder if it might not be such a bad idea to just take the top 12 or 16 teams overall and pit them against each other.

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