Tom Ziller has an interesting proposal to eliminate conferences and have five divisions. He proposes this to make the travel schedule easier and help balance the difficulty in each team’s schedule.
But my question is this: Why have divisions at all? It seems to me that divisions outlived their usefulness many years ago. Division championships mean less today than they ever have, and the automatic playoff seedings for division winners was abandoned when it was found to make no sense. This would have been unthinakble twenty-five years ago but makes sense in today’s NBA.
Eliminating conferences would be a radical step, and I like the idea of revamping the NBA schedule based on geographical location. Playing more games with teams geographically close by would help build rivalries (something that is sorely lacking in today’s NBA) and generate more fan interest. The farther away a team is, the fewer games they play against that team. Teams would play every other team at least twice, but the schedule would be weighted to playing teams that are geographically closer.
If we are going to take a serious look at competitive balance and evening the schedule, though, the best solution (in my opinion) is contraction. That would improve the quality of the game and give more resources to the teams at the bottom of the standings, because players with teams eliminated by contraction would be available to other teams. Good teams could also get better, and players that really could not have made an NBA roster twenty years ago would not be playing. But as much as I would love to see fewer teams, that is little more than fantasy.
Unfortunately, that will never happen.