The vast difference in strength between the NBA's Eastern and Western conferences has first-year commissioner Adam Silver rethinking his league's playoff structure.
Under the current system, the league admits each conference's top eight teams by record, with the two conferences kept entirely separate until the conference champions meet in the Finals. Some observers have suggested that the top 16 teams, regardless of conference affiliation, should make the playoffs. Others have argued that the top eight teams from each conference should make the postseason, with those 16 teams then subject to a reseeding regardless of conference affiliation.
In an interview with Fox Sports Southwest's Bill Land and Sean Elliott conducted during a Friday night game between the Spurs and Suns, Silver didn't commit to enacting any changes to the system, but he did say that the league will investigate its options.
"I don't know if there will be movement," Silver said. "My initial thought is we should take a fresh look at it. When these conferences were designed it was in the day of commercial travel. ... It was very different when we moved teams around the country. In this day and age, where every team in the league is flying charter, it changes everything."
A disparity between the conferences has existed for some time, but this year it's particularly egregious. As of Friday, five of the seven teams in the league with 50-plus wins were in the West. The Grizzlies are currently outside the playoff picture in the West, but they would be the No. 3 seed in the East. Meanwhile, the East's No. 8 team, the Hawks, would have the 11th best record in the West. Plus, four of the five teams with less than 25 wins are currently in the East.
Silver stepped into the commissioner's office on Feb. 1, taking over from David Stern, who held the post for 30 years. Back in October, the NBA decided to switch back to a 2-2-1-1-1 instead of a 2-3-2 format for the Finals, in part because of travel reasons.
"[Charter flights are] one of the reasons why we moved back to the 2-2-1-1-1 format for this year's Finals," Silver said Friday. "It was moved to 2-3-2 at the beginning of the David Stern's commissionership because a lot of the media weren't willing to follow us because of the back-and-forth travel. But in this day and age of charter planes, it makes sense to keep a consistent format throughout the playoffs."