Since the 2016-17 season came to a rather predictable conclusion, and JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulia lifted the Larry O’Brien trophy, the NBA has been in a frenzy. Many complained, and rightly so, that this year’s postseason was boring.
Those same things certainly can’t be said of the offseason. Starting with the Boston Celtics trading the first pick in last month’s draft, and continuing all the way through to the Knicks securing a massive offer sheet for a player that they had traded away two years ago, the league has collectively rallied to throw their best shot at Golden State.
Well...at least in the West.
Even to the casual NBA fan, it’s clear that there has been a lopsided power shift in the league. By my count there are six near-lock playoff teams in the West — some of which will have secured their spot by adding Eastern Conference talent.
And outside Gordon Hayward, few are going the opposite direction.
Not sure how to do research, but have the conferences ever been this lopsided?— Jordan Brodess (@Jbrodess) July 3, 2017
Turns out it isn’t just a perceived power shift - ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh lays out the numbers here.
So it begs the question: how does the NBA as a whole handle a lopsided league?
Ask Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, and he may say it means conference realignment. Or at the very least, a different approach to the postseason. Highlighted in an article by ESPN’s Zach Lowe, Cuban told ESPN in part: "It needs to be addressed. Seven of the 10 smallest markets are in the West...”
Cuban has never been one to shy away from giving his opinions, especially on how to improve the league as a whole. In the winter of 2014 both Cuban and Suns owner Robert Sarver addressed the matter, Sarver going to the commissioner’s office with a proposal for doing away with traditional conference playoffs in favor of seeding the top 16 teams in the league.
It’s not an infallible concept, but from a competitive standpoint it makes a lot of sense. The league should want the best teams, with the league’s best players, all playing in the postseason.
There are opponents to such changes, mainly (unsurprisingly) from the Eastern Conference. And they aren’t invalid in their opposition: those teams affected by this re-seeding would be missing out on valuable postseason revenue. But, as Cuban points out in his comments to ESPN, “I really believe Eastern teams know they can get by doing less.”
Change won’t come soon. But give a few more years of superstar imbalance, and a couple more predictable post seasons, and we might be looking at a new formula. And Mark Cuban might be leading the charge.