By Scott Tibbs, December 19, 2004
The New Orleans Hornets have taken a nosedive, going from 41-41 last season to 2-20 so far this season. A lot of that has to do with competing in a much tougher conference, as well as in a tough division. The Hornets' struggles expose, once again, that the Eastern Conference as much weaker than the West.
Still, it is not a lock that the 2005 champs will be from the West. The Detroit Pistons won the championship last year, and are certainly a contender to repeat. The Indiana Pacers would have been a top contender if not for the NBA's overreaction to a fight with Detroit fans, and when two of their suspended players return they could make a run.
But the fact that the East is so weak overall in comparison to the West should be a concern to NBA brass. Indeed, the Pistons were the first Eastern team other than Chicago to win a championship since, well, the Pistons won championships in 1988-89 and 1989-90. Both conferences need to have their share of good teams for the league to reach its' full potential.
The answer, I think, is to eliminate some teams. Right now, the NBA has 30 teams with the addition of the Charlotte Bobcats. Before the Raptors and Grizzlies were added in the mid-1990's, the league had 27 teams; there were 23 teams before that.
I do not think it is necessary to cut all the way back to 23 teams. However, I do think that 26 would be a good number to consider: thirteen teams in each conference. If some of the talent from teams that are eliminated (even the worst of the worst, like the lowly Atlanta Hawks) were to be dispersed around the rest of the league, the rest of the teams would get better. The overall quality of the game would get better too, because those on the fringes of being NBA-caliber players would be removed from the league, replaced on the remaining teams by better players.
Who to eliminate? Here are my suggestions:
- Atlanta Hawks
- Los Angeles Clippers
- Charlotte Bobcats
- Golden State Warriors
This, of course, is nothing but pontifications from a blogger, because the odds of the NBA actually contracting are slim to none.