of the Cleveland Cavaliers during the game against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on April 6, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.

For the last several years, the NBA has seen a great imbalance with the league tilted heavily towards the Pacific Ocean.  The Western Conference has been vastly superior to their Eastern Conference brethren for so many years now that it’s even led to discussions about the NBA needing to get rid of conferences and/or completely re-do their playoff structure.

Since Michael Jordan retired, the West has won 12 out of 17 NBA championships.  It’s not just at the top where the gap between West and East has been so pronounced, it’s in the depth in each conference as well.  The West has routinely see teams with winning records left out of the playoffs while teams with losing records from the East make the postseason.  Most notably in 2008, the 48-34 Warriors had to sit at home and watch the 37-45 Hawks play in the playoffs.

Each of the last three years, the East has seen a team with a 38-44 record make the postseason.

Finally this season, after almost 20 years of imbalance, the Eastern Conference is playing on a level playing field with the Western Conference, maybe even surpassing them.

And this stat tells the story.  For the first time this millennium, the #8 seed in the East will have a better record than their counterparts in the West.

In that 1998-1999 shortened season, the New York Knicks were the #8 seed in the East with a record of 27-23 and made the NBA Finals.  The #8 seed in the West were the Minnesota Timberwolves, with a record of 25-25.

At the moment, the Eastern Conference has 8 teams with a winning record while the Western Conference has 7 teams.  The conferences haven’t even been tied in that tally since the 2004-2005 season, when both conferences had 9 teams with an above .500 record.  Four times since then, the East has only managed a paltry 5 teams with a winning record, including just last year.

And although the Warriors and Spurs have dominated much of the headlines this season, the 2015-2016 campaign has seen a revival of Eastern Conference basketball.  The Cavaliers are certainly odds-on favorites to advance to the Finals, but beneath them are a large group of good to very good teams like the Raptors, Celtics, Heat, Hornets, and more.  Those teams may not be championship contenders yet, but they’ve proven they can beat any team in the league on a given night (see Boston ending GSW’s home win streak earlier this month).  And they’ve proven that the NBA doesn’t have to be dominated by an East-West split forever.

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