The NBA's Eastern Conference is horrible. No argument here and no argument from the teams who play in that conference. They know. That's why there's so much complacency, and bad teams believe they can still make the playoffs.
However, the NBA should not pay heed to a few analysts who believe that because the Eastern Conference is so weak the league should abandon its conference formats or prevent teams with losing records to qualify for the playoffs.
Some analysts and fans are overreacting, because while the Western Conference is stronger, it is not far superior across the board.
Furthermore, the NBA must keep its conference and division alignments to provide intrigue for fans who want rivalries and meaningful regional matchups no matter the records.
Should the NBA abolish its division alignments?
Entering every season, the top eight teams in each conference advance to the playoffs and teams seeded Nos. 1 to 4 in each conference are the three division winners and the team with the next-best regular-season record, with the seeding of these four teams determined by regular-season record.
If the season ended today, five Eastern Conference teams with losing records would make the playoffs. No more than three teams with losing records have advanced to the postseason.
So be it. In a twisted way, the floundering Eastern Conference adds something to the league this year. As of Dec. 26, Philadelphia is in last place in the Atlantic Division with an 8-20 record but is only four games behind division leader Toronto (11-15).
As the season progresses, fans in Philadelphia, New York, Toronto and Boston have a reason to attend games because the possibility exists that their favorite team can play in the postseason. Who knows? With the possibility of winning a division title and making the playoffs, a team may catch fire and become much better by April. They are at least motivated by that goal.
If division alignment is eliminated, no hope would exist and attendance figures would dwindle. The NBA would become more top-heavy because the weaker teams would have less to compete for as the season goes along.
The Western Conference's No. 8 team, Golden State (17-13 as of Dec. 26), is only four-and-a-half games better than the Eastern Conference's No. 8 team, Boston (12-17). Only four-and-a-half games does not qualify the Western Conference as far better than the Eastern Conference from Nos. 1 to 8 (the most important spots).
As bad as the Brooklyn Nets have been with their questionable coaching, player discontent and injuries, they have won four games against the Western Conference, including victories over the L.A. Clippers and Phoenix Suns. Mediocre play by Eastern Conference teams will not happen every game.
The Eastern Conference is horrible, but the NBA should not be tempted to a knee-jerk reaction and abolish the conferences and division alignments. So long to rivalries and intrigue if that happens. The fans would lose the most.