- Ezra Shaw/Getty
- LeBron James’ move to the Los Angeles Lakers has made the Western Conference far and away the better conference in the NBA.
- Some have already proposed reformatting the playoffs to contain the 16 best teams instead of eight from each conference.
- There’s little reason for Eastern Conference teams to agree to that, but it’s clear the NBA’s best action will take place in the West.
LeBron James’ decision to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers has the potential to reshape the NBA.
There are now fears the NBA is more lopsided than ever, with the Western Conference home to far superior competition.
Many people already felt that was the case, but the game’s best player joining a premier franchise in hopes of organizing a new superteam only increases those fears.
Indeed, the Golden State Warriors, with Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry, already rule the NBA. The Houston Rockets, headlined by James Harden and Chris Paul, seem poised to make another run this year after a 65-win season. The Oklahoma City Thunder are keeping Paul George and Russell Westbrook together. Players like Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Jimmy Butler are all on teams that may not finish in the top four.
Now James is in the same conference.
Already some in the NBA world are talking about the idea of reformatting the playoffs to consist of the 16 best teams rather than eight from each conference. The East has two prominent, talented teams in the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers, but the rest of the conference seems to be a level below the West’s best teams.
Within minutes of James’ decision, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on “SportsCenter” that one team executive already texted him about playoff reform.
Plenty of others suggested the same or hinted at it:
Can we talk a bit about how silly it is to have the top 8 seeds in every conference make the playoffs now?
— Haralabos Voulgaris (@haralabob) July 2, 2018
Excited to see LeBron take his talents out West. But it makes the need for a 1-16 NBA Playoffs all the more imperative now.
— Moke Hamilton (@MokeHamilton) July 2, 2018
Active players who've made All-NBA 1st team, by current conf.:
— Dan Feldman (@DanFeldmanNBA) July 2, 2018
The three most impactful players in the NBA play on two teams in the same division.
— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) July 2, 2018
The Western Conference now includes every player who has finished in the top 5 of MVP voting since the Warriors' first title run (minus free agent Isaiah Thomas).
— Zachary Kram (@zachkram) July 2, 2018
Of course, Eastern Conference teams wouldn’t have much reason to vote for such a proposal. At the moment, it seems as though 10 Western Conference teams could be legitimate playoff contenders next season. There’s little incentive for Eastern Conference teams to give them more slots.
James dominated the Eastern Conference for the past eight years. This season will obviously have a new representative in the Finals, and other teams from the East will become pseudo contenders. But it seems for now that almost all of the best action will come in the West.