Last season we talked some about the conference imbalance between the East and West. Tom Ziller pointed out for SBNation this imbalance has a long historical track record. Kirk Goldsberry for Grantland gave conference alignment the Cold War treatment. From Ziller's piece, the East has posted a winning record against the West just one time in the last fourteen seasons. That shows no signs of abating this season.
While young teams like the Utah Jazz, Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns, and these New Orleans Pelicans show signs of hope the Eastern Conference is mired in futility. Only their basketball Messiah can save the Philadelphia 76ers. The Knicks are terrible and hope the bright lights of Broadway will provide sufficient allure for free agents this summer. The Brooklyn Nets are a mess and do not even have their own picks, youth, or cap space to latch onto.
Six teams well below .500 (at minimum seven games) are battling for the seventh and eighth playoff seeds out East. Meanwhile in the West the Thunder and Pelicans, who would be the sixth seed in the lesser conference, battle for the privilege of facing the Golden State Warriors in round one. A quick look at the playoff odds shows the imbalance clearly.
A quick look at the NBA Standings without conferences more clearly shows this imbalance.
In an NBA without conferences the Pelicans are the 14th seed a nipping at the heels of OKC and Washington for as high as 12th. Atlanta and Golden State would actually have a battle on their hands for the overall number one seed. Phoenix would still be in the playoff hunt while Miami, Charlotte, and Indiana are well on the outside fringes.
None of these potential matchups create the kind of "travel nightmare" envisioned.
Atlanta Hawks - Phoenix Suns
Golden State Warriors - Milwaukee Bucks
Memphis Grizzlies - New Orleans Pelicans
Portland Trail Blazers - Oklahoma City Thunder
In this scenario the hardest question is which series gets the NBATV treatment.
Adam Silver has already mentioned he is open to changes. Sadly for the Pelicans, they may come a year too late.