Conference inequalities and playoffs plague NBA

By Kevin Spitz

A quick check of the standings in the NBA this year and it’s easy to see there needs to be a change.

This is going to be the ninth straight year that the Western Conference is better than the Eastern Conference. This is not to say that over the past nine years every single team in the West has been better than every team in the East. It’s saying that every team in the West is better than every team in the East, besides the Detroit Pistons a couple of times.

But all joking aside, the NBA needs to change its playoff procedure for a couple of reasons. One, a disparity between the two conferences does exist, making it unfair for teams in the Western Conference. Two, it looks bad for the NBA to have teams that can’t even win half of their games making the playoffs. In essence, it devalues the 82-game regular season.

Over the last nine seasons, the Western Conference has not had a team in the playoffs with a record worse than 42-40. By comparison, in the Eastern Conference the eighth seed has never been better than 42-40 over the last nine seasons. This year will undoubtedly be the third year in the last nine that a team in the East will reach the playoffs with a sub .500 record.

The six, seven and eight seeds in the East are below .500. Somehow, just somehow, the Chicago Bulls are still looking to make the playoffs this year – the team is 20-31. I, for one, was hoping the Bulls would be the class of the East this year. I was expecting them to win the Central division and contend for the Eastern Conference Championship. Well, the thought of a Central division crown may be long gone, yet after winning less than 40 percent of their games, they can still contend for an Eastern Conference Championship.

Conversely, Western Conference teams suffer. The Houston Rockets (featuring Luther Head) are on the outside looking in right now. Their record: 31-20. If you put them in the East, the four seed would belong to Houston with a nine and a half game cushion.

Some may think that Western Conference dominance is just a fad. But after nine years, I’m starting to doubt that the NBA will right itself on its own, especially after the star power that has been once again migrating to the West. During the past week two blockbuster trades have sent superstars to the West. Shaquille O’Neal is now on the Suns. Jason Kidd just got traded back to the Dallas Mavericks, where he started his career.

During last year’s off-season there was talk that maybe the NBA should adopt a format where they just take the top 16 teams rather than split them into conferences. Though this is a possible solution, what makes the most sense is to reduce the amount of teams that make the playoffs to a more reasonable number.

An eight-team playoff is so much more desirable because it allows only the most talented teams to make the playoffs, while at the same time shortening the postseason.

Last year, the playoffs started April 21 and continued until June 14. I know that some fans are turned off by the fact that it takes the NBA over fifty days to get through the playoffs, so by limiting the playoffs to the top eight, the NBA would see a more talented group of teams and a more marketable playoff product.

Free Throws

There was one game last week. One very disappointing game. Without going into too much detail, the Illini shot 8-for-17 against Indiana from the free-throw line. Their 47 percent performance cost them the game.

Our shooter this week, Adrian Villarreal, senior in Business, went 7-for-10 from the line conventionally, but he also tried to see if he could beat the Illini one handed. Adrian was 4-for-7 at one point, and he just had to make one of three. Sadly, much like Shaun Pruitt, he failed to connect on any of his last three free throws and was unable to beat the Illini one handed.

As the Illini season draws to a close, don’t forget to e-mail me at [email protected] if you’d like to be a part of the contest.

Kevin Spitz is a senior in Engineering. He can be reached at [email protected]