Why NBA’s Eastern Conference Sucks
The NBA Eastern Conference SUCKS this year, and its capacity to become even mediocre isn’t even that great. Probably more so than ever, there is a clear-cut disparity between the East and the West. Generally there is a certain level of parity between the two, but this year, they aren’t even in the same league, as it were.
But why? What exactly is happening in the NBA that has caused an entire conference to suck so badly?
A lot of analysts and commentators have speculated as to why the West has been so dominant this season and the East, to put it nicely… hasn’t been. But no one has given any concrete reasons. Well thankfully, here at SidelineMOB, we have the actual answers. So here it goes:
There are 4 key reasons that the East sucks, and the West doesn’t:
1.) Overall Record
2.) Inability to draft and build with free agency
3.) Coaching tenure
4.) Statistics / Game Performance
Reason #1 the Eastern Conference sucks: Overall record (aka “the obvious”)
Let’s look at the most glaringly obvious statistic: the overall records of each conference. Currently, the West is a combined 204 – 157, for a winning percentage of .565 and 9 out of 15 teams sit above the .500 mark. As for the East, well that’s a completely different story.
As of today, the East is a combined 158 – 205, for a winning percentage of just .438. The even more remarkable stat about this abysmal performance – there are only three teams in the entire conference that sit above a .500 record. Three. Out of fifteen.
No. That’s not a typo. I will repeat it again. Just three out of the 15 Eastern Conference teams have a winning record. Eight Eastern Conference teams haven’t even won 10 games, and 13 of the 15 East franchises have double-digit losses (compared to the West, where 6 teams have yet to lose 10 games.)
Reason #2 the Eastern Conference sucks: Inabiility to draft/win in free agency (aka “poor front office management”)
Alright, so how does a team improve their record? Well, it starts on the court, right? You acquire talent through free agency and more importantly, the NBA draft. The Eastern Conference has, over the past 10 years, actually had more top 10 draft picks then the Western Conference by a margin of 53 to 47. So you would probably be able to make an argument that the Eastern Conference should be better than the West, right? That’s only logical. Well, it’s not that simple.
What this stat says to me is that the East has been consistently bad and has not only drafted the wrong people, but they have failed in epic fashion to build around top 10 draft picks. That is a failure at the management level. We’ve seen teams elevate their games from relative obscurity to contenders with the selection of the right person, and the coupling of the right pieces around them, and we’ve seen it recently.
How about the Sonics-slash-Thunder drafting Kevin Durant and coupling him with Russell Westbrook? Translation, NBA Finals. How about the Los Angeles Clippers drafting Blake Griffin and coupling him with CP3 and key defensive pieces like DeAndre Jordan? Translation, NBA contender. How about the Golden State Warriors drafting Steph Curry and coupling him with Klay Thompson? Translation, trendy pick to win the NBA championship.
What do all of these teams have in common? They had a top 5 pick, they drafted the right player, they built around him and put the right pieces in place to be contenders. Oh, and they’re all Western Conference Teams. Who are the East’s teams with the most top 5 draft picks in the past ten years? Answer: the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Washington Wizards, and the Charlotte Bobcats.
Reason #3 the Eastern Conference sucks: Short coaching tenures (aka “no leadership”)
Moving on – now that we’ve covered the men who are actually on the floor, how about the guys that are leading them? I would argue that coaching stability in the NBA has a more substantial impact on success than one would think.
We would all agree that a coaching job in the NBA is about as secure a profession as a temp worker. But let’s be honest, there have been some successful long-term stints in the NBA’s recent past and present. Notably Phil Jackson (Lakers & Bulls), Jerry Sloan (Jazz), Greg Popovich (Spurs), Doc Rivers (Celtics), Eric Spoelstra (Miami), Don Nelson (Warriors), and George Karl (Sonics & Nuggets).
So what does the current coaching landscape in the NBA look like? I averaged the total tenure (start date through today) of every current head coach in the NBA today and broke it down by conference. The West has an average tenure of just over 3 years. The East? Less than a year.
That, to me, is staggering. That means on average, the majority of teams in the Eastern Conference have brand new coaches, with brand new philosophies, brand new systems, and brand new personalities. That is a recipe for disaster across the board. We’re not talking about 1, 2, or 3 teams. We are talking about 8 head coaches out of 15 in the Eastern Conference that started in 2013. Of the other 7 teams in the East, 5 have taken over the reins in the past 2 years. The longest tenured coach in the East? You guessed it, Eric Spoelstra, 2 time NBA Champion.
Reason #4 the Eastern Conference sucks: On-court performance (aka “cumulative effect”)
So the Eastern Conference has had a historically bad season thus far in 2013-2014. I’ve argued that the East is bad because of their overall record, their inability to build through free agency and the draft, and that the average tenure of coaches in the East being less than a year is a recipe for ineptitude. But all of that is on paper. You’ve heard the phrase “that’s why they roll the ball out and play the game” before, right? Well let’s look at actual on the court performance.
Are you ready for abysmal? Are you ready for desolation? Are you ready for downright embarrassment? I took this years stats for the top 12 teams and looked at how many teams in the East were actually ranked in the top 12 versus how many were ranked in the top 12 from the West. Here’s what I found:
Field Goal %: Only 3 out of 12 Eastern Conference teams were ranked in the top 12.
3 Point Goals Made: Only 3 out of 12 Eastern Conference teams were ranked in the top 12.
Free Throw %: Only 5 out of 12 Eastern Conference teams were ranked in the top 12.
Offensive Rebounds: 6 out of 12 Eastern Conference teams were ranked in the top 12.
Defensive Rebounds: Only 5 out of 12 Eastern Conference teams were ranked in the top 12.
Assists: Only 5 out of 12 Eastern Conference teams were ranked in the top 12.
Steals: 6 out of 12 Eastern Conference teams were ranked in the top 12.
Blocks: Only 5 out of 12 Eastern Conference teams were ranked in the top 12.
Turnovers: 7 out of 12 Eastern Conference teams were ranked in the top 12.
Points Per Game: Only 1 out of 12 Eastern Conference teams were ranked in the top 12. 1/12 (only 6 of the top 20)
Now, if you took the time to read through all those stats, you’ll see that there is only one statistical category where Eastern Conference teams had more top 12 teams then Western Conference teams in the 2013-14 NBA season. What category is that? Turnovers.
Yes. Turnovers. The East leads the top 12 teams in the NBA in this one category.
Even more disturbing – how does a team win games? By scoring. What is the East really bad this year? Scoring. The East has exactly one team in the top 12 in points per game. One.
So for those of you that want to know why the Eastern Conference is historically bad this year? Look no further than the following reasons:
1.) Overall Record
2.) Inability to draft and build with free agency
3.) Coaching Tenure
4.) On court performance
The NBA Eastern Conference sucks, and it’s reached epidemic levels. Translation: it’s not going to get any better next year.