Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - It's no big secret the Western Conference is miles better than the Eastern Conference.
It's been that way for some time, but the disparity in quality has led to a lot of discussion by smarter people than me about a way to fix it. Zach Lowe and Tom Ziller have floated ideas about realignment or even scrapping conferences all together.
There are eight teams in the Western Conference with double-digit victories compared to only four in the Eastern Conference. The East is a woeful 26-64 against its big brother, but are these relatively nuclear options really necessary?
No, because basketball, like White House occupancy, trends in jeans and almost everything else in life, is cyclical.
The West is best now, but it won't be in perpetuity. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Gregg Popovich will retire. Kevin Durant will go to the Washington Wizards. Just like that, the balance of power will shift.
That's assuming you buy the premise. The sample size for western domination is still small, but does anyone believe LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers won't figure things out by season's end? Does anyone think Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls, when healthy, (if such a thing exists in Bulls Land), won't be major contenders by May?
The Toronto Raptors have the third-most wins in the NBA. They gave the Memphis Grizzlies, the league's best, one of their only two losses.
So, maybe, just maybe, this notion that the league is so lopsided that change is needed, is a little too quickly conceived.
The San Antonio Spurs are a modern dynasty. They are the defending NBA champions, but the Miami Heat won the two before that. Miami is very eastern. The Eastern Conference champions are 4-6 in the last 10 NBA Finals. That's hardly worthy of changing the structure of the league.
Realignment is not an easy step. There's different travel requirements and hurdles to leap both in ownership and with the players' association. Lowe reported that Robert Sarver of the Phoenix Suns is interested in change. Of course he is. His team narrowly missed the playoffs last season despite going 48-34.
Mark Cuban is also an advocate for change. He opined on ESPN's broadcast of the Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks Wednesday night that the three Texas teams could go east with three Central Division teams heading to the Western Conference. Part of the rationale was change for the sake of competitiveness, the other part was that the trips are equidistant to Portland. That hardly seems like a reason to realign - mileage to Portland.
There is inequity in the depth between the two conferences, but sounding the alarm button so drastically as to realign is too much. For all of the chatter about how supreme the Western Conference is, if the NBA seeded the top 16 teams and sent them to battle last season, only the Atlanta Hawks would have been out in favor of the Suns. The Hawks took the Indiana Pacers to seven games and should have pulled off the rare 8 over 1 upset.
Yes, it stinks that the Sacramento Kings, or Denver Nuggets, or, heaven forbid, even the Oklahoma City Thunder may miss out on the playoffs because the West is so great. Yes, it seems unfair that this incarnation of the Pacers may make the playoffs when any of the above-mentioned teams would have a better chance of advancement.
But, is the answer really tinkering the infrastructure? That's so drastic. What happens when lottery picks like Jabari Parker, Aaron Gordon, Marcus Smart and the entire 76ers roster pans out?
As Lowe pointed out, what happens when the Nets and Knicks spend the money they have coming to them? Won't free agents want to come East because it's an easier path to the Finals?
The balance could change, so what happens then when Texas becomes Eastern? Does the NBA change conference positioning every two seasons based on competitiveness? That's nonsensical.
Reshuffling the deck is fun. It's even a valid theory with some merit because the ultimate goal of sports is to come up with the best champion through any means necessary. We've begged college football for years to come up with a playoff. It's a true test and you want the best teams competing.
Taking the step of shifting conferences is too much. It's unnecessary and the idea that it'll make it more competitive for a year or two is not enough of a reason to pull something this huge.
If a Western Conference team wants to compete for an NBA title, my advice is to qualify for the postseason. Will it be difficult? Of course it will be, but that's how the league operates at the moment.
Changing schedules and conferences because one is so clearly better doesn't change anything significantly other than give a Dallas or Houston homecourt in the first round of the playoffs if they were in the Eastern Conference. (That's not a small thing, as Lowe illustrated. There's a little thing called money involved.)
Realignment is just not needed at the moment. Even if you buy the premise that the disparity is so monumental, pushing the panic button should be the final resort and the league is nowhere near that yet.
The best player resides in the Eastern Conference. Basketball legacies like the Celtics, Knicks and Sixers are there, too, and while they're in decline, they don't need the Dallas Mavericks interfering with their storied pasts.
The balance of power resides now in the Western Conference, at least during the regular season. It stinks that all of the great teams out there, first have to play each other more, but also won't see the postseason.
Can't blame geography for everything.
If realignment was needed because of travel problems like say Memphis to Portland, then it's an important topic for discussion. If realignment is brought up to make the Eastern Conference better, just wait for the Eastern Conference to get better.
It will. It's cyclical.