I doubt I will be breaking any huge news to even the casual NBA fan, but basketball is so insanely lopsided with talent. Currently in the Eastern Conference, there are two teams with records over .500, being Indiana and Miami. In the West, it is a little more reasonable, with nine teams having records over .500. I was absolutely flabbergasted when I saw the standings this morning. Basically, I have two questions. First off, how are there this many horrible teams in the NBA? Then, I started wondering why the West is so much stronger than the East. So, let’s take a stab at answering these questions.
Alright, First Things First
How is the majority of the NBA this bad? This is going to be a little easier to explain in the West. There are only two teams that are more than one game under .500 so far this season. Let me repeat that. Sacramento (4-11) and Utah (3-15) are the only two teams in the West that are further than one game under .500! How in the hell are there only two teams that are really bad in the West. These teams aren’t even that bad. Sacramento has clear building blocks in Cousins, McLemore, Vasquez, and Thomas. Cousins is a franchise changing big man, possibly a top 3 center in the league and a dominating 20 and 10 guy in this league for the foreseeable future. McLemore is a really talented scorer who at worst looks like he can be a spot up shooter with some good athleticism at the two guard spot. Vasquez is a decent starting point guard but could be a terrific back up point guard, with great size and court vision. Isaiah Thomas is one of the best sixth men in the league and can easily be a Jason Terry or Lou Williams for the Kings for years to come. Utah also has some serious talent that they are building around, in Trey Burke, Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, and one of my favorite guys in Rudy Gobert. Seriously, Gobert is 7’1 and has at least a 7’9 wingspan. If he can add a little bulk and just a hint of a post game or a jumper, he is going to be so dynamic. I didn’t even count Gordon Hayward, their best player, since he might get traded this year. Now let’s compare that roster, which by the way is the roster for a team that has been openly tanking all season, with another team tanking, our Sixers. The Sixers best players who will most likely be on this team next year are Carter-Williams, Wroten, DORT (legally, I am required to always call Daniel Orton DORT), and Noel. Now, these rosters are not terribly far off from each other, but Utah clearly has better pieces moving forward. I really like Carter-Williams, but Trey Burke has only played a few games and already looks so comfortable on the court. He is going to be an elite point guard in this league. Wroten is a solid player, he brings energy, he is very good defensively, and he can attack the basket. However, he can’t shoot. Really at all. Which wouldn’t be a huge problem if it wasn’t for the fact that Carter-Williams can’t shoot at all either. Then, comparing DORT and Noel, who probably won’t see the court at any point this season, to Favors and Kanter, both of whom have terrific size, really good athleticism, and are already right around 10 and 10 guys, is just not fair. This is a very large tangent to show you, that the very worst teams in the Western Conference are not in nearly as bad of a position as the eleventh best team in the East in Philly.
The East is basically the polar opposite of the West
There are only two teams which are over .500 and they are so much more dominant that every other team in the conference that there is basically no way that the Pacers and Heat do not see each other in the Eastern Conference Finals. There are only three teams at .500 or one game under in the East, with those teams being Atlanta, Washington, and Chicago. This is an incredibly drastic scene for the layout of the conference. The true question is whether or not this is a trend or just a fluke. The answer to that is that this is a fluke. While I do not think any of the teams in the East are even comparatively equal to the West, the fact is that Eastern teams will get wins based on the fact that they have to play one another. The teams in the East are not nearly as bad as they have been playing. The Wizards, Nets, Pistons, Knicks, and Bulls are all going to improve as the year progresses. The Wizards needed some time for John Wall, Beal, Nene, and Ariza all to figure out how to play together. The Pistons are in a similar spot, where they need time to allow Drummond, Monroe, Smith, and Jennings to figure out how to play with each other. The only real problem with this is that Drummond, Monroe, and Smith all play the big positions. I thought this could work because Josh Smith is athletic enough to guard most small forwards in this league, and he has some range to his offensive game. The only problem with that is, his outside shooting is not nearly good enough to keep defenses honest. However, now that they have Jennings, who was injured for most of the beginning to the season, the Pistons will be able to work out a system that works efficiently enough to allow them to play all of their insanely talented bigs. The Nets and Knicks are a different headache in general. Yes, they need to adjust to having Lopez, Garnett, Pierce, Williams, and Johnson all playing together and sharing shots and minutes. However, they are slightly screwed because, in this spot, most teams would rely on a veteran coach to establish the team and get everything to mesh. However, the Nets put their faith in Jason Kidd, who, when he is not spilling drinks and paying fines, he is failing at coaching players who he was playing alongside with last year. The Knicks put their faith in Carmelo, Smith, and Chandler. This should be enough to get them into the playoffs as around a sixth seed, but they desperately need Chandler to return from injury. Chandler is the single most important player on that team since he can coordinate the entire defensive effort for the team and he covers all of the mistakes Anthony and Smith make, along with Bargnani’s absolutely abysmal defense. The Bulls are just too confusing. With Rose, they weren’t very good. Rose did not look very good at all, and it looks like all of the roster moves Chicago made in the offseason appear to have diminished the depth this team had last year that enabled them to survive not having Rose all year. Do I think they will be better? Yes. Why? Mainly because of Thibodeau and the fact that Noah is just as good defensively, if not better, than Chandler. So, in conclusion, there is no easy explanation as to why the West is so much better than the East. The most logical reason I can find, besides the Eastern Conference having some of the worst general managers alive (I’m looking directly at New York based teams here), is that the NBA is not this dramatically unbalanced. Yes, the Eastern Conference Finals will be between the Heat and the Pacers. But, the 3-6 seeds will not be the embarrassment that they are currently. I can easily see at least three of the six teams I mentioned drastically improving their records due to the points I raised above, or for the very least because they will play the dregs of the East more often. Never fear though, Hinkie will right the world when he fixes the Sixers. All faith in Hinkie!