When was the last time the Eastern Conference was the better conference? I do not think there has been a season this century thus far where the Eastern Conference was clearly the better conference. Even in the 1990's, there might have been seasons where the Eastern Conference had the two best teams (Knicks/Bulls in '93) and (Magic/Bulls in '96), but the Western Conference appeared to be deeper that decade. Do you have to go as far back as '89 when Jordan's Bulls were 5th in their own division? Also, if Patrick Ewing left Georgetown after his junior season and entered the 1984 NBA Draft, how do you think it would play out? Does Olajuwaon still go #1? Does Ewing agree to go to Portland I think I remember reading that he only wanted to play in a big city. Do the Bulls draft Sam Bowie (Yikes!)?
C'mon, the East isn't that bad. Perhaps not as deep, though Durant and Kyrie are coming. And if the Knicks ever... Actually, the 90's still was a strong East since the Shaq/Penny Magic was a great team that should have done much more.
I know the 2000s haven't been kind to the East, but I'm not one to advocate a one-through-16 playoffs or getting rid of the conferences. The East basically dominated in the 60s, which was easy because there basically was no West. Russell, Wilt, Oscar all in the East with then the Knicks coming hard, Unseld and Hayes into the 70s, and the 80s all East when the NBA was eight Eastern contenders for the title and the Lakers. So the East had a nice 40-year run. It's the West's time. It reminds me of baseball when the American League for decades dominated and won just about every All-Star game until the racist owners in New York and Boston, especially, were outmaneuvered by the National League guys who recognized these guys of color were pretty darned good.
I believe Olajuwon would still have been No. 1, but perhaps just barely and not unanimously. Ewing was one of the most feared forces in college, and though great, much less so as a pro as he fell in love with the fallaway jumper. I thought he'd be a muscled, physical, seven-foot Bill Russell. In any case, the Trailblazers would have been smiling a lot more than they did and perhaps cut short that Bulls run after one title. Bowie falls to about No. 9. He was a vision for the Trailblazers because they were set at just about every position but center. Which is an historic big mistake of the draft. Never ask a player to be who you need instead of who he is.