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The NBA’s East-West Structure Rewards Mediocrity

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I am a Golden State Warriors fan. Everyone close to me knows that when the Warriors are on TV (only a few times a year unless you live in the Bay Area, which I do not), I am on the couch in my ‘We Believe’ t-shirt. After a mediocre season last year that ended with a bang, the Warriors have been doing pretty well this season. Currently, they are in 8th place, grasping to a 1/2 game lead on the Utah Jazz. The Warriors started out the season badly, losing their first 6 games. But since then, they have been one of the best teams in the league and are poised for another playoff run. However, at any moment it seems as if one of the other teams could overtake them and slip into the 8th and final western playoff berth. The West is just that competitive. Only 5 games separate the Warriors from the 1st place Phoenix Suns.

On the other side of the country, it is a whole different story. The Celtics, Pistons and Magic are clearly the best teams in the East. And the only reason they do not have better records is the fact that they are forced to play western conference teams from time to time. As opposed to the competitive situation in the West, highlighted by the Warriors’ plight, the East is kind of pathetic. For example, the 7th and 8th spots in the East are held by teams who are under .500. If the Warriors were in the Eastern Conference, they would be in 4th place, a game behind the Magic.

So, why does the NBA reward these less-than-mediocre teams and let them compete in the playoffs? Doesn’t it seem unfair that teams who win much more than 50% of their games have their season cut short, while other teams who have not done as well are deemed “playoff caliber” tems? I don’t know about you, but to me that is messed up. What I would prefer seeing is a system where there are no conferences or divisions at all. A structure in which every team plays all of the other teams an equal number of times. Then, compare records and take the 16 teams with the best records. It sounds simple, right? So why is it not like this? I do not have the answer for that.

For the Warriors to have to play all of the powerhouse teams of the West and still have a winning record is an amazing thing for a young, up-and-coming team. They should be rewarded for their accomplishments. They should not be in a fight for the last spot in the playoffs when teams like Toronto, Atlanta and Indiana can just waltz into the playoffs with shaky records.

If the aforementioned all-encompassing system were in effect, here is who would make the playoffs if they were to start today: 1. Boston Celtics 2. Detroit Pistons 3. Phoenix Suns 4. New Orleans Hornets 5. LA Lakers 6. Dallas Mavericks 7. San Antonio Spurs 8. Portland Trail Blazers 9. Orlando Magic 10. Denver Nuggets 11. Golden State Warriors 12. Utah Jazz 13. Washington Wizards 14. Cleveland Cavaliers 15/16. Toronto Raptors tied with the Houston Rockets. In a sitation like this, the Warriors would easily make the playoffs and teams like the Hawks and Pacers would not be rewarded for their sub-par seasons. That is the kind of league I want to see.


Nishan Wilde is VP of Sales for Robbins Sports and Athletics, an online resource for Basketball Hoops, Baseball Uniforms and Punching Bags.