NBA Players Who Changed Conferences

The Western Conference has been the stronger half of the NBA for more than a decade, and the split couldn’t have been much more profound last season. The Suns finished out of the playoffs in the West with a record that would have tied for third-best in the East. Still, there’s evidence to suggest that the balance leveled to a degree this past summer.

Kevin Love was the most significant player switching conferences, as he pushed Western Conference also-ran Minnesota to trade him to Cleveland, where he joins a Cavs team with title aspirations. New teammate LeBron James was the biggest name to make a move in the offseason, but he stayed in the East. Love was the only player of his caliber to make a conference-to-conference jump, as evidenced by win shares. No other player with double-digit win shares from last season changed conferences, according to the numbers on Basketball-Reference.

There’s no single stat that provides a true measure of a player’s production, but win shares is as all-encompassing as any, and the picture that the metric paints shows that the East gained steam this summer. The players who ended the 2013/14 season on Western Conference rosters and now find themselves on Eastern teams totaled win shares of 78.2 last year. The total for East-to-West movers was only 61.2. Trevor Ariza, with 8.0 win shares, was the leader among the East-to-West group, and while he certainly helped the Wizards last season, he’s far from the sort of player whose movement indicates a seismic shift in the NBA landscape.

There are other factors at play, of course. Many Western Conference teams have built their success thanks to shrewd drafting, and the results from this past June aren’t reflected here. And not all of the win shares represented here were necessarily compiled in the players’ respective conferences last year, since some of them changed conferences midseason. Still, it’s instructive to see how they stack up. Here’s a look, with each player’s win shares in parentheses and the total win shares in parentheses atop each category:



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5 thoughts on “NBA Players Who Changed Conferences

  1. CurryMeAway

    It would be interesting to see this done for each of the top 10 Western Conference from last season versus each of the top 10 Eastern Conference teams. Dallas got better, Rockets moved sideways or slightly backwards (even though he was the most notable Western Conference addition by Win Shares), Golden State added Livingston, Clippers nabbed Hawes but lost Collison, etc.


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