May 20th 2016
The title of the blog says it all. The Eastern Conference this year has just not been entertaining to watch in the playoffs. Yes, the Raptors had two game 7s and won both of them, they had multiple overtime games against the Heat. The Cavs broke the record for most 3s in a playoff game and drowned the Hawks. Plus there were many matchups in the East that were very competitive. But I still find myself more eager to watch teams on the opposite coast go head to head, whether that’s in the first round or in the Western Conference Finals.
Let me give you an example. I use the NBA league pass international version, where there’s a a few seconds minutes delay, to watch the games. When I’m watching the playoff games in the West, I would try and avoid Twitter to prevent spoiling anything about the game. However, in a must win Game 2 for the Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals, I found myself switching tabs, looking at Twitter, Reddit and other sites, whilst the game is still on. Maybe I’m just not that die hard of a fan, or maybe the Cavs have actually no real competition and they’re just steamrolling through to the finals.
Before the season even started, we assumed that LeBron James and the Cavs were going to book their place in the finals and it’s looking inevitable right now. Because of this predictable assumption, it’s taken away the excitement of the fans. I mean there are many factors that affect a fan’s decision on whether a game is watchable or not but this is essentially the most important one. Whether the game is really right midway through the 2nd quarter, you somehow know the Cavaliers are going to win the series.
Over in the West, they have 2 of thegreatest regular season teams ever in the playoffs this year. Sadly, one of them was taken down by the unpredictable Oklahoma City Thunder. We had a finals-like matchup with the Thunder triumphing over the Spurs. These two teams going head-to-head should attract the fans watching just by the sheer popularity of the players and having 3 of the top 5 players in the league in this matchup. However, on the other end of the Western Semi-finals, you take a look at the Blazers, a young team with no all-stars, lost 4 of their 5 starters at the beginning of the season, they took the defending champs to 5 very competitive and entertaining games. The series went 5 games but it was the closest 5 game series I’ve seen in a while, if ever. More so, I can strongly say that it’s been as entertaining, if not more, than the Thunder-Spurs series.
What I’m trying to emphasise is that the East is just not as entertaining, fun and watchable in the playoffs compared to the West. Personally, I think it’s mainly because they’re just not as good. I’m sorry, but it’s true. It’s been true for quite some years now. Take a look at this stat: in 17 years, the head-to-head competition between the two conferences in the regular season, the West has beaten the East 16 times. Basically, Team West has beaten Team East 16 timesout of 17. That’s insane. Even though the East did start chipping away the unbalance between the two conferences this year, and there are no eight 50-win teams in the West anymore, but the NBA is still being dominated by the top teams in the West.
Remember the times when the Heat were the Heatles and were having a rough time against the Pacers, or during the late 2000s, when the East had the Celtics, Magic, and the Cavs fighting for the spot in the finals? This year? It’s the Cavs and the iso-Raptors featuring “The Trash Bros” and it’s looking like a sweep. No offence to Kyle Lowry andDeMar DeRozan (can you believe I had to capitalise the ’M’ and the ‘R’?), they straight up balled this year but playoffs is a different monster and this year the Cavs have no real competition, no struggle, just going to autopilot their way through.
The Cavs smooth journey to the finals is an understatement of how flawed the format of the playoffs currently is. The Cavs plus the Thunder/Warriors may not be the best two teams standing in the NBA. If anything,the playoffs format should changed to the best 16 teams, instead of segregating the two conferences. The best team should be rewarded for their hard work in the regular season. Can you imagine the semi finals consisting Warriors, Thunder, Cavaliers, and possibly the Spurs and how exciting this would be? How many of you would want that to happen? Who cares about the players traveling long distances? The players all fly in G6’s or chartered planes with really good seats to make their experience more enjoyable and comfortable! It’s not like they’re still traveling on team buses like in the old days, that’s why divisions and conferences were set up when they can’t go on long ass road trips every day.
The NBA should heavily consider this proposal and it’s definitely been talked about within the league. But they should really consider the impact it’ll have on attracting more viewers to watch the game. I’m sure ESPN’s rating on the Eastern Conference Finals this year cannot be compared to the TNT and Turner Sports’ rating for the Western Conference Finals. If its Spurs vs Cavs, Thunder vs Warriors, everyone wins. The league, broadcast networks, and most importantly, the fans.
Let me know what you think, or hit me up @BFantasyHoops on Twitter.