Fighting for their playoff lives, the 47-33 Phoenix Suns were unable to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies at home earlier this week. That clinched a spot for the Grizzlies while the Suns, who remained one of the best surprise teams in the NBA, will have to watch at home after ending the season 14 games over .500.
It’s just another season of great Western Conference teams that miss while watching sub-.500 Eastern Conference teams lose to the much better teams. And it’s a tradition that must come to an end.
Here are the following teams in the East that both made the playoffs and finished at 48-34 or worse on the season: Toronto, Chicago, Washington, Brooklyn, Charlotte, and Atlanta. That’s right, you counted correctly. The 3 and 4 seeds in the Eastern Conference Playoffs have the same record as Phoenix, in the West, that missed the playoffs.
Former Iowa State player and current Phoenix head coach, Jeff Hornacek, should be proud with what he’s been able to accomplish in his first season as an NBA coach. They had a better season than anyone could have guessed and did so without the common fan being able to name more than three players on the team.
The Suns averaged 105.2 points per game (7th best in the league), an NBA high 18.7 fastbreak points per game, and ranked in the top 10 in every NBA shooting category with the exception of free throws.
Only thing missing between Hornacek’s offense and Fred Hoiberg’s offense at Iowa State was the sheer lack of ball movement. Phoenix ranks dead last in the NBA in assist-to-field goals made, something the Cyclones were a tad better at ranking 10th in the NCAA.
Separating the East and the West just doesn’t make any sense by today’s standards, and the NBA should consider completely overhauling its format and adapting with the rest of the professional leagues. The NFL has two conferences but all the teams in both conferences are spread out because the pro football league we see now was a merger of two different leagues. The MLB also has two leagues joined together.
The NHL still has directional conferences, but they do have more of a pod system that breaks the playoffs into four different regions, creating a similar look to the college basketball postseason if it started at the Sweet 16.
Every single team is flying charter in the NBA, a reason why the Finals have mercifully gone to a 2-2-1-1-1 format this season — like the rest of the playoffs have been for years now.
New league commissioner Adam Silver will be considering a format change after the season, and it shouldn’t even be just a thought. Western Conference teams have been screwed over for years watching the Milwaukee Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks do absolutely nothing in the first couple weeks of the playoffs.
Phoenix is the latest team to miss out on the fun, and despite all the great things Hornacek did with his squad this season, they’re rewarded by watching the Hawks get rolled over by the Indiana Pacers. Because the NBA still hasn’t come to their senses that dividing a league by two different directions is a completely outdated approach that’s making the league suffer.