Entering 2021/22, Eastern Conference teams had posted a winning record against Western Conference teams just once in 22 seasons since the turn of the century. That happened during the 2008/09 campaign, when the East put up a 231-219 record vs. the West.
However, the East regained the upper hand last season, ever so slightly, finishing with a 226-224 record against Western opponents. Even though no team in the East won more than 53 games, the conference was deeper than the West, with 10 teams registering at least 43 victories. By contrast, only eight teams in the Western Conference won more than 36 games.
The emergence of Eastern teams like the Bulls, Cavaliers, and Hornets played a part in the conference’s relative success in 2021/22, while disappointing regular seasons by the Clippers, Lakers, Trail Blazers, and Pelicans were factors in the West’s slide.
Of course, many of those Western underachievers dealt with major injury issues — with better health from Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Anthony Davis, LeBron James, Damian Lillard, and Zion Williamson, those teams are poised to improve in 2022/23.
This summer’s trades and free agent moves don’t appear likely to swing the pendulum drastically from one conference to the other. Most of the offseason’s top free agents re-signed with their own teams, while the most impactful players who changed teams via trade generally remained in the same conference, including Rudy Gobert (Utah to Minnesota), Malcolm Brogdon (Indiana to Boston), and Christian Wood (Houston to Dallas). Jalen Brunson‘s move from Dallas to New York was one of the few instances of a noteworthy player changing conferences.
There are still big-name trade candidates whose eventual destinations could have a major impact on the East/West balance. Those deals could ultimately favor the East more than the West — the Knicks are considered Donovan Mitchell‘s top suitor, for instance, while Kevin Durant has been linked most frequently to the Heat, Celtics, and Raptors since the Suns brought back Deandre Ayton.
We want to know how you view the East and West ahead of the 2022/23 season. Will returning stars help the West reclaim its place as the dominant conference next year, or will the continued growth of improving Eastern squads result in back-to-back winning seasons vs. the West?
Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section to share your thoughts!