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Just The Sports: Western Conference vs. Eastern Conference Pt. I

Just The Sports

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Western Conference vs. Eastern Conference Pt. I

With two out of the last three NBA champions calling the Eastern Conference, it has seemed as if the balance in the NBA is, if not swinging completely in the Eastern Conference's favor, then at least equaling out after the Western Conference dominated the league between 1999-2003. That is, until this season began. While the league champion will not be crowned for many months to come and may still come from the East, twenty-nine games into the 2006-07 season, there is no doubt about which conference is the superior one and they have shown their superiority in commanding fashion, most notably in head-to-head matchups.

When playing an Eastern Conference team, of the fifteen Western Conference franchises, only two of them have a lower offensive rating (points scored per 100 possessions than defensive rating (points allowed per 100 possessions). These two are the Memphis Grizzlies and the Portland Trailblazers. Since the Grizzlies have been missing their star forward, Pau Gasol, for most of the season, there is a reasonable explanation for their failings while playing an Eastern Conference-aligned opponent.

Conversely, the Eastern Conference has only four teams who have the privilege of saying they have out-played the Western Conference teams on the schedule: Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, and Milwaukee Bucks. The rest have been embarrassingly inferior.

As for what has led the Western Conference to the top of the NBA, it comes down mostly to how well the teams have shot from the field and from the free throw line and efficiency on the offensive side overall.. Cumulatively, Western Conference teams when playing against the Eastern Conference have a 54.8% true shooting percentage and score 107.6 points per 100 possessions; their Eastern Conference nemeses have a 52.7% true shooting percentage and score 104.0 points per 100 possessions. While the margin the Western Conference does not seem to be much, it is quite enough to of an advantage to be statistically significant.

If this disparity continues, the NBA may be forced to jimmy the schedule like the NFL does to make sure no team or conference is consistently great.



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