As Carmelo Heads West, Parity Appears to Be Just a Pipe Dream

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 11: Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook attend Black Ops Basketball Session at Life Time Athletic At Sky on September 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Shareif Ziyadat/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 11: Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook attend Black Ops Basketball Session at Life Time Athletic At Sky on September 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Shareif Ziyadat/Getty Images) /

After the Thunder’s acquirement of Carmelo Anthony, the Western Conference has appeared to gain another superteam as parity continues to diminish.

In reality, the last thing the NBA needed was another superteam in the Western Conference as so many fans, players, and executives long for parity in the league. Nevertheless, the Oklahoma City Thunder have found a way this offseason to give reigning MVP Russell Westbrook the pieces he may need to succeed.

Those pieces, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George, are not your average offseason pickups.

George, a four-time all-star, comes as a much-needed wing for Westbrook. Then, Carmelo Anthony, a ten-time all-star, just adds more ammo to the OKC offense as the new big three will be a force to reckon with in transition.

Also, the Houston Rockets may have become a superteam over the offseason too as they acquired Chris Paul, via trade, from the Los Angeles Clippers to accompany the MVP-runner up, James Harden.

Even before the addition of Carmelo Anthony, the Oklahoma City Thunder were projected by ESPN to win 49.5 games, which is higher than any team in the Eastern Conference but only fifth highest in the Western Conference.

Currently, Oklahoma City’s championship odds sitting at 16-1, according to Westgate Las Vegas’ Jeff Sherman.

As you can see from the odds, four out of the six highest odds belong to Western Conference teams, and,  frankly, the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers wouldn’t have such high odds if it weren’t for the seemingly set-in-stone idea that one of them will make it to the NBA Finals.

Going back to the ESPN projected win totals, a key figure to derive from the projections is the total wins projected for the playoff teams in each conference. For the Western Conference, ESPN projects the top-eight teams to combine for 410 wins, with none of the teams projected to win less than 45 games.

As for the Eastern Conference, ESPN projects the eight playoff teams to combine for 358 wins with four teams projected to end the season with less than 45 wins.

Now, when there are teams in the league such as the Warriors and Cavaliers, the regular season and playoffs may seem futile as a fourth straight Finals matchup is in sight.

However, with San Antonio, Houston, Golden State, and Oklahoma City dominating the Western Conference playoffs, is there any hope of conference realignment?

No End in Sight

Back in 2014, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon did a piece regarding Mark Cuban’s idea for conference realignment. The Mavericks had just come off a 49-33 season where they finished eighth in the Western Conference when this article came out. However, had they been in the Eastern Conference, the Mavericks would have been the third seed.

As backward as it sounds, that continues to be the case for many Western Conference teams every season.

More from The Smoking Cuban

As for Cuban’s plan, it was much more of a quick fix for the Mavericks than a fix for the entire league. In Cuban’s plan, four teams from the West and four teams from the East would simply swap conferences. The teams, according to Cuban, would ideally be the Mavericks, Rockets, Spurs, and Pelicans for the West, and the Bulls, Pistons, Pacers, and Bucks for the East.

In hindsight, this move would only make the Eastern Conference the conference with four powerhouses rather than the West. But, is there a bad idea?

Given the extreme imbalance going into the 2017-2018 season, one would think that a random lottery to determine conferences couldn’t possibly make the conferences worse than they already are.

Now, this conversation will continue to grow larger and larger as more superstars consolidate to a few teams, but what are the chances of anything coming to fruition?

Well, it has been over a decade since any realignment took place. Even then, only two teams were involved, and, in this state of imbalance, there is going to be a lot more than that to get anything done.

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However, one can hope.