For the better part of the two decades, the Western Conference has been the superior conference in the NBA. The Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs, and Sacramento Kings were the top tier in the early 2000s while the Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, and those same Spurs are among the favorites now.
The Eastern Conference has been dominated by LeBron James recently as his team has made seven consecutive NBA Finals. The lack of depth in the East combined with the number of very good West teams has led many to believe the NBA should simply allow the top 16 teams to make the playoffs as opposed to eight from each conference.
This is something that Commissioner Adam Silver believes is worth discussing. According to Nick Friedell of ESPN however, Silver notes that it would require changing the unbalanced schedule:
“I think though it would require revisiting the regular-season schedule as well. As I’ve said before, we don’t play a balanced schedule now, as I’m sure you know. And for those that don’t, that means that teams in the East play each other more than they play teams in the West. And our feeling is, if we were going to seed 1-16, we would need to play a balanced schedule to make it fair for everyone if we were going to seed 1-16 in the playoffs.”
Silver would add that as the league continues to tinker with the layout of the schdule as a whole, it could allow for a more balanced schedule:
“It may be that as we continue to experiment with the number of days over which we can schedule 82 games that it will create more of an opportunity for a balanced schedule.”
Silver is definitely correct in that the schedule would need a complete overhaul before seeding teams 1-16, but it may be worth it. Last season three teams in the West finished with a better record than the top seed in the East.
The NBA has proven to be very progressive since Silver became Commissioner. The NBA recently passed rules for draft lottery reform and player resting while Silver himself has said that the league isn’t married to an 82-game schedule.