With the Golden State Warriors making the Cleveland Cavaliers, the supposed best team in the Eastern conference, look like a high school team during the NBA Finals for the second year in a row, it’s hard to ignore the dominance of the Western conference.
NBA players are world class professional athletes, and their talents should be respected as such, but why does there seem to be like there is such a big dip in talent when teams in the East compete against the West?
For the 16th time in 17 years the Western conference has had a winning record against teams from the Eastern conference. Comparing the best team in the Eastern conference to the best team in the West during the 2016 season almost seems unfair because the top team in the East has only four more wins than the fourth best team in the West.
Judging the conferences by the bottom of the barrel things get even uglier. The worst team in the West has almost double the wins as the worst team in the East. The only teams that are evenly matched are middle of the road teams. I have a couple of theories that could be the cause of these drastic differences.
Number one is that the franchises in the East have to get past the mentality that one star player will be able to deliver a championship. That went out with Michael Jordan, and even he had help. The talent pool is far too deep now.
Another contributing factor is that basketball has always been a young man's game and the West has youth on its side. The majority of star players on the Eastern Conference squads are older than the star players on the winning teams in the West. Age could play a big role in how the games are impacted, especially at later stages of the year.
Analyzing the most notable front office moves made by NBA teams over the past 20 seasons, it seems that the front offices of Western Conference teams have made better long-term decisions than teams in the East. The West seems to move toward building teams for long-term success, while the decisions made by teams in the East usually point to a risky win-now philosophy that oftentimes hasn't panned out.
There are teams in the East that are now applying the same team building tactics being used in the West, instead of investing heavily in superstar players in hopes of an instant turn around. The Toronto Raptors are a good example of an up-and-coming team in the conference, but the talent is still being developed to a level that can compete with the other elite competition out there. There are a couple of other teams that are only a few pieces away from making the East a more formidable foe for the West.
Even though it looks like the West will continue dominating the league at least until the Golden State Warriors disband, teams in the East and their fans can find some comfort in knowing that it is about time for a paradigm shift. Throughout the history of the NBA there has been decades of shifting dominance between the conferences. Let’s not forget how the Chicago Bulls ransacked the 90’s championships.