There's no way around the fact that the Western Conference is far deeper than its Eastern counterpart, the result being that teams in the West have a much more difficult time making the playoffs.
New commissioner Adam Silver would like to see that changed.
According to the San Antonio Express-News' Mike Monroe, Silver offered hope that the league would at least think about such a proposal:
Conducting an in-game interview with Spurs broadcasters Bill Land and Sean Elliott during the telecast of Friday's Spurs-Suns game at AT&T Center, Silver said the league needs to consider changes to the format that puts the top eight teams in each conference in the playoffs.
Per Monroe, Silver went on to say, “I don't know that there will be movement. My initial thought is we will take a fresh look at it," also noting that air travel was more cumbersome when the schedules were initially designed.
The comments came at a timely juncture given San Antonio's game against the Suns. Phoenix is one of three teams with just 32 losses in the West, each of which is competing for two remaining playoff spots (Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies being the others).
A record like that would be good enough for the third seed in the East, however. The Minnesota Timberwolves (10th in the West) would qualify as the seventh seed in the East.
It's becoming increasingly hard to ignore the disparity. Sports Illustrated's Ben Golliver further examines why:
A disparity between the conferences has existed for some time, but this year it’s particularly egregious. As of Friday, five of the seven teams in the league with 50-plus wins were in the West. The Grizzlies are currently outside the playoff picture in the West, but they would be the No. 3 seed in the East. Meanwhile, the East’s No. 8 team, the Hawks, would have the 11th best record in the West. Plus, four of the five teams with less than 25 wins are currently in the East.
It's hard to imagine changes happening immediately, but there's certainly precedent. Just last fall, the league decided to change the NBA Finals home-road format from 2-3-2 to 2-2-1-1-1, overturning a decision David Stern made during his first year on the job.
One can't help but be intrigued at what the playoffs would look like were the top 16 teams to qualify regardless of conference. While you might not get a success story like the Charlotte Bobcats, a more deserving team, like the Suns, wouldn't be left out in the cold.
A change would also radically reshape how we discuss the playoffs, shifting our attention away from the conference system altogether.