It's weird, but shouldn't be permanent. NY has two teams; CHI, WAS, PHI, BOS are also big markets; there are two Florida teams (for warm weather). Some of our big cities are rust belt cities and are therefore not huge markets anymore, but it's not like places like OKC, POR, SLC, NO, MEM, SA, or SAC are exactly booming.
California probably has something to do with it, but NY and Miami should help make up for that difference. It probably has more to do with drafting and player development. Heck, Atlanta has a pretty good young player in Trae Young, but they could have had Doncic - who is now playing in the West. Coaching and other FO decisions also play a part.
The top of both conferences is actually pretty even right now. It's after you get past #5 or #6 that it gets pretty dicey. I would imagine that more of the East teams will get higher draft picks and better even out the bottom half. I can say it seems a lot better than the last few years where it was GS, Cleveland, the next 7 West teams and then #2-8 East teams.
While collectively the West is slightly better this year, I think the top of the East is better 1-5 than the West, Oladipo’s injury notwithstanding.
I think any of the TOR, MIL, PHI, or BOS could possibly take down GS or anybody from out West. And the top team(s) can vary by year, but when I think of Teams 1-15, I feel like the West normally wins out.
I don't know where to easily look up Conference level stats (without doing a ton of the leg work). I feel like the very top of the conference can go either way, but the middle and bottom level playoff teams are usually better out West. There's a few outlier years, but if I look at 20-30 years of data, I think if you took 1-16 regardless of conference, you'd see far more West teams than East (though again, there are outlier years). If you ranked playoff teams 1-16, but kept 8 East and 8 West, the West teams would have home court advantage a majority of the time. I feel like this is true the a vast majority of the years.
When I look at teams chasing ping pong balls, I feel like it's normally EC teams. This year 4 of the 5 worst teams are in the EC, including the worst. 2018 does not fit my narrative, but 2017 had 3 of the 5 worst in the EC including the worst. 2016 had 2 of the 5 in the EC including the worst. 2015 had 3 of 5 in the EC. 2014 had 4 of 5 in the EC, including the 3 worst, 2013 the EC had the 3 worst, 2012 had the 2 worst and 3 of 4 in the EC, 2012 had 2-4 in the EC, etc.
Looking at #1 picks, the last 20 years, 14 (70%) went to an EC team. Over the last 30 years, 20 (67%) went to the East. Picking like that, you'd think the East would have picked things up at some point.
I can understand it being cyclical, and that's what I used to think, oh the power will swing back to the East eventually, but this has seemingly been going on for 20+ years.