By Brian Murphy
Let’s face it, the National Basketball Association’s Eastern Conference just doesn’t compare to the Western Conference. Besides LeBron James taking his talents to South Beach in 2011 to join forces with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh for four seasons, the East hasn’t dominated the NBA since Michael Jordan dominated the entire league in the 90s.
Don’t get me wrong, the East has had some very special teams within the last 15 years or so but there’s one thing the East hasn’t produced in that span that the West has and those are dynasties.
The Los Angeles Lakers kicked off the millennium with three-straight NBA titles led by Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and legendary head coach Phil Jackson. Those Lakers of the early 2000s also were a main reason why the Chris Webber and Peja Stojakovic-led Sacramento Kings never made an NBA Finals appearance despite having a stacked roster.
Los Angeles then won two more championships in 2009 and 2010 led by Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum. One of the most spread out dynasties in league history belongs to the San Antonio Spurs, who have won five championships from 1999-2014 with future Hall of Famer and one of the greatest power forwards of all-time, Tim Duncan, and head coach Gregg Popovich being a part of all of them.
The Detroit Pistons of the mid-2000s and Boston Celtics of the late 2000s were powerhouse teams. But while both won a title, neither was dynasty-worthy.
Over the past decade or so, the coaching in the Western Conference has been outstanding. Jerry Sloan led the Utah Jazz for more than 20 consecutive seasons from the late 80s to the late 2000s taking them to Finals appearances in 1997 and 1998. Sloan won 1,221 career games.
George Karl, who coached the Denver Nuggets from 2005-2013, was the seventh head coach in league history to reach 1,000 career wins. Karl was named the head coach of the Sacramento Kings earlier this month and will try to revive a team with tons of talent but not able to succeed in the madness that is the Western Conference.
Doc Rivers is the head coach of the high-flying Los Angeles Clippers and is considered one of the top-tier coaches in the NBA. Even first-year Golden State coach Steve Kerr is having an excellent season. His Warriors sport the best winning percentage in the league allowing him to coach the West in the recent 2015 All-Star game.
Rick Carlisle, who coached in the Eastern Conference from 2001-07, has been the head coach for the Dallas Mavericks since 2008, leading them to their lone championship in team history in 2011.
Dallas owner Mark Cuban expressed his thoughts of the imbalance of power between the two conferences to Bryan Gutierrez of MavsOutsider.com earlier this season. His idea was to switch out four Western Conference teams with four from the East to balance things out.
Cuban’s realignment idea was to take all three Texas teams, Rockets, Spurs, and Mavs along with the New Orleans Pelicans, and swap them with the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Detroit Pistons. Who knows what NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will do about this issue, if anything at all.
Now this brings us to how dominant the Western Conference has been just these past two seasons alone. Last season, all but one of the West playoff teams had at least 50 wins. The No. 8 seed Dallas Mavericks had 49 wins and gave No. 1 San Antonio Spurs a seven-game war of a series.
The East just had two teams with at least 50 victories. The Phoenix Suns were just barely out of the playoff picture with a 48-34 record. If the Suns had been in the East, they would have been tied for No. 3 seed with the Toronto Raptors. The No. 3 seed!
All eight West playoff teams had a legitimate chance at raising the Larry O’Brien Trophy but only the Indiana Pacers and the Miami Heat were the real contenders in the East. This season both the Pacers and the Heat are below .500 in the standings.
The emergence of the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference this season has been thrilling to watch. The return of LeBron James to the Cleveland Cavaliers pairing with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love also is a threat to win it all, but the Cavs are still trying to piece everything together.
Once again this season, there is an insane amount of talent and serious title contention from the top seven teams in the West. That doesn’t even include the Oklahoma City Thunder who have been without the services of Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant and All-Star Russell Westbrook for for various stretches. The Western conference has at least three serious MVP candidates thus far in Golden State’s Steph Curry, Houston’s James Harden, and New Orleans’ Anthony Davis. The East arguably has zero.
One last telling statistic that shows the West’s dominance: nine teams from the West have winning records against the East and the East just has five teams barely .500 against the West.
The West won the recent All-Star Game in New York and you can bet your bottom dollar that this year’s champion will reign from the Wild, Wild West.