There are at least six teams in the Eastern Conference that have made moves signaling a rebuild versus a dozen or so in the Western Conference that, barring injuries, should be competitive.
So, under the current playoff format, there will inevitably be clubs in the West that miss out on the postseason despite being more talented and finishing with better records than playoff squads in the East. The owners of those teams have made informal proposals to the league office to solve the disparity, sources told ESPN's Zach Lowe.
"It needs to be addressed," Dallas Mavericks owner Marc Cuban told Lowe in an email Thursday. "Seven of the 10 smallest markets are in the West. I really believe Eastern teams know they can get by doing less, and (in some cases) make the playoffs. Because they are larger markets, they will sell tickets and advertising, and get viewers. They get the best of both worlds."
The power imbalance isn't new to the league. In fact, Lowe noted that Cuban pitched a temporary realignment plan in 2014, while Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver pressed the league to abolish conferences altogether, at least as it relates to their impact on playoff seeding.
Commissioner Adam Silver said at the time the league would study the issue, but ultimately nothing changed because of the schedule imbalance and travel complications resulting from a playoff format that doesn't take into account conferences.
"The commissioner's office was not interested," Sarver told ESPN this week in an email. "The Eastern teams don't like it."
Now that the issue has worsened, it might be time to take another look.