The imbalance is made worse by the fact that only one team plays in the NBA Eastern Conference Standings. In addition, the playoffs are spread out a bit more between the two conferences. Due to these factors, the player compensation distributed is also more uneven. That means there will be more “player friendly” deals given to certain teams in the playoffs. In effect, those teams that win the most frequently will get a higher percentage of player contracts, while the bottom feeders will see their paychecks decrease.
Obviously, this can be beneficial for the contenders that don’t necessarily deserve to win the title. On the other hand, it can be detrimental for those that have been consistently good, but have not had many close games to earn a higher seed or playoff spot. For those teams that win the most games, but are not playing at a high level, they could find themselves having to play against the same teams in the Conference Finals every year, which could reduce their ability to build a core of talent and depth that will help them to advance to the NBA Finals.
There are a number of reasons why the Eastern Conference is the worse of the two conferences when it comes to its player payouts. One is that there just isn’t a consistent quality of all around talent in the Eastern Conference. Most of the better teams in the conference find themselves fighting for second place after the first five or six games of the playoffs. Since the Eastern Conference is so competitive, it has an advantage over the Western Conference because it can maximize its chances of winning by finding a deep enough core of players that it can overcome lesser teams.
However, since the postseason results do not reflect the quality of play much, the NBA Eastern Conference playoff standings are not reflective of who is actually going to win the trophy. Only the records have any kind of bearing on who is going to take home the Larry O’Brien trophy. And while there have been some notable streaks from the better teams this postseason, this does not mean that the teams that have been playing better are going to go far in the postseason. If you are going to get into the playoffs and win, you need to have a deep enough running game and be able to make shots when you are open.
The teams that have the best chance of advancing to the NBA Eastern Conference finals are the ones that have a deep running team, strong shooters, a great coach, and an efficient player turnover ratio. The teams that miss the playoffs are mostly the ones that do not have these traits. The Indiana Pacers for instance, have been one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference the last few years, but have just been unable to withstand the injuries that have plagued them all year long.
They lost two of their top three leading scorers in their backcourt starters in Indiana’s big free agent signings in Indiana Thomas and Al Harrington, plus they lost their number three overall player, Antique Dent. The Boston Celtics also lost big to the moves that Boston made this offseason, acquiring Rajon Rondo and cutting bait with Rajon Wallace. The Miami Heat were never really a true title contender until Big Three arrived, but they still managed to capture the top seed in the Atlantic Division, beating the Orlando Magic in the first round before getting swept by the Indiana Pacers in the second round. So the real question is, who are the teams that will go far in the NBA playoff series? Many people will say the Seattle SuperSonics or the Boston Celtics, but it would not be surprising to see the Miami Heat, Atlanta Hawks, or Denver Nuggets take the top spot in the western conference finals. It is really just a matter of which team can put together a greater collection of talent and put it all together in one year to lead the conference in a dominant fashion.
If you are going to get deep into the playoffs, whether it be the eastern conference or the western conference, then it is vital that a team build a top five defense. I have seen many different playoff teams come and go without a true number 1 defender that can consistently defend their best players on a nightly basis. There have been a few exceptions to this, but the biggest example of this was in the 2021 NBA Finals when Ray Allen missed most of the series after having surgery performed on his knee. The Orlando Magic was one of the worst teams in the league last year without a true number 1 option on the wing, so this was a huge development for them. Don’t underestimate the value of a top 5 offense. The Dallas Mavericks and Chicago Bulls were two teams that could not score the ball on the outside, which is why they missed the finals both times.
If you want to make intelligent NBA Eastern Conference predictions, then your first step should be to understand how the playoff rotations work. If you study the film of past finals games, you will see which player is more likely to pick up an offensive rebound and start the offensive momentum in the series. You will also need to take a look at the coaches tendencies in calling plays in crucial situations and key defensive positions. Once you have studied these things, then you should have enough information to make educated guesses about who will be playing in the NBA Finals this year.