You have to go all the way back to Michael Jordan's final season with the Chicago Bulls to find really strong parity between the Western and Eastern conferences in the NBA. That was 1998, when the 8-seed in the East had two more wins than the 8-seed in the West.
Since '98, the West's eighth seed has had fewer wins than the Easts' eighth seed just twice (1999, 2016).
This is a big problem considering teams like the 2014 Suns and 2008 Warriors each won 48 games and missed the playoffs. Had they played in the East, both teams would've been top-four seeds. And there are more examples of failed teams from the West that would've been postseason teams in the East.
Teams like those have more and more people asking if it's time for the NBA to dump conference seeds and and replace it with a format that invites the top 16 teams in the NBA to the playoffs, and it's and idea Timberwolves head coach/president Tom Thibodeau sounds open to.
"I think it's been so long now where there seems to be an imbalance," Thibodeau told ESPN. "The West has gotten a lot more of the elite players and there's an imbalance. So I don't know what the answer is, but probably do think about what other options there may be to create more balance."
The imbalance might be at its greatest next season now that Jimmy Butler (Wolves), Paul George (Thunder), Paul Millsap (Jazz) and other stars from the East relocated to teams in the West.
8-seed records since 1999
- 2017: West 41-41, East 41-41
- 2016: West 41-41, East 44-38
- 2015: West 45-37, East 38-44
- 2014: West 49-33, East 38-44
- 2013: West 45-37, East 38-44
- 2012: West 36-30, East 35-31
- 2011: West 46-36, East 37-45
- 2010: West 50-32, East 41-41
- 2009: West 48-34, East 39-43
- 2008: West 50-32, East 37-45
- 2007: West 42, 40, East 40-42
- 2006: West 44-38, East 40-42
- 2005: West 45-37, East 42-40
- 2004: West 44-38, East 36-46
- 2003: West 44-38, East 42-40
- 2002: West 44-38, East 42-40
- 2001: West 47-35, East 41-41
- 2000: West 44-38, East 42-40
- 1999: West 25-25, East 27-23
Had their been a 1-through-16 seeding in 2014 the Timberwolves would've made the playoffs with 40 wins. Instead, they finished nine games out in the loaded West.
The same happened to the 2005 Wolves, who won 44 games and missed the playoffs by one game.
In April of 2016 NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the idea of a 1-through-16 seeding has been discussed, along with various other playoff ideas. Any change to the current system would force the NBA to alter the way it creates a balanced schedule, and it would eliminate the need for conferences and divisions, which, of course, are a pretty big part of the league's branding.