This early season has exposed a rare trend, as competitive balance within the Eastern Conference emerged.
When people talk about conference parity in the NBA, the focus often centers on the league’s best teams. Those discussions almost always then gravitate toward the West. And that’s more than fair. With six of the last 10 title winners and wildly superior competitive depth, the Western Conference has largely dominated the past decade. All-Star games? The West has also won four of the last five. Perception and reality are in the same corner here.
Another way to think about balance is to look at the strength of the middle class. A below-.500 squad has made it into the Eastern Conference playoffs in nine of the past 10 seasons. The only exception was lockout-shortened 2010–11, when the Sixers (remember them?) were the eight-seed at 35–31. In that time span, it hasn’t happened in the West. There have been multiple seasons when the Western Conference playoffs featured eight 50-plus win teams. Throwing out the best and worst teams and looking at the center might be a better indication of equality, anyway: every sample has outliers on both ends, even if the Warriors and Lakers weren’t the subject of your high school stats class.
Based off the first two weeks of the season, it looks as if the East's middle class has taken a major step forward. This is highly unscientific: the games have simply been competitive. Teams are moving the “fun” needle. Not to get too far ahead of ourselves—it’s only two weeks in, though the East is currently 14–12 against the West—but let’s enjoy this little thing we call competitive balance while we have it. Little brother is catching up, or at least it will appear that way until Golden State slices a burning swath across the kingdom.
With all things considered, here’s this week's edition of the NBA Power Rankings.
(All stats and records through Nov. 9)