What Are the 6 NBA Divisions?
Many of us know that there are two distinct conferences in the National Basketball League, both the Eastern and the Western Conferences. However, a lesser known and less discussed topic is the one regarding divisions. Within the NBA, there are 6 distinct and unique divisions, each with their own strengths and characteristics.
Below, we are going to discuss just what the 6 NBA divisions are, which team’s make-up each division, each divisions likelihood of winning a championship trophy, and why there are six divisions within the NBA.
While it is important to be able to draw distinctions between the two conferences, having a deeper understanding of each individual division will help you to better understand the scheduling of NBA games and how the league has been shaped and formed throughout the years.
Why is the NBA Divided into Divisions?
In an effort to create a more compelling and equitable league, the NBA created divisions as a subclass within the conference system. As there are two conferences, the Eastern and Western, consisting of 15 franchise teams, those 15 teams are further divvied into equal divisions of 5 apiece.
To be eligible for a playoff berth, an NBA team must have one of the top eight records within their conference. Only the top eight teams within each conference are eligible for a playoff spot, with the seeding determining initial matchups.
However, with the inclusion of divisions within the two conferences, the top seeded teams within specific divisions and the team with the overall better record are eligible for preferential seeding in the event of ties and the same number of wins-and-losses for the season.
However, as is the nature of the NBA, divisions can quickly become dominant powerhouses and just as quickly lose much of their former glory. With the availability of draft picks, ability to trade players, and to recruit new coaches and staff, one division may carry a conference for many years before losing their luster and steam.
Eastern Conference Divisions
As stated above, each conference is evenly divided between three divisions, each with five individual franchise NBA teams. For the Eastern Conference, the three divisions are outlined below:
The Atlantic Division is, historically, one of the stronger divisions within the Eastern Conference. Consisting of the Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, and Toronto Raptors. The Atlantic Division is, perhaps, best led by the Brooklyn Nets for the 2021-22 season. Led by the likes of Kevin Durant and James Harden, the Brooklyn Nets are a formidable team and are favorites to reach the NBA Finals.
The Central Division has lost much of its former glory, though they are beginning to rebuild their reputation behind their recent champions, the Milwaukee Bucks. However, the Central Division, consisting of the Chicago Bulls, the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Detroit Pistons, the Indiana Pacers, and the Milwaukee Bucks were once a more dominant division.
With NBA greats having played in the division, including Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Reggie Miller, Isaiah Thomas, to name just a few, the division has a number of championship trophies and legendary games. And with the Bucks unlikely victory in last year’s NBA season, the Central Division is an up-and-coming division once more.
The Southeast Division is one of the most fun divisions to watch in the entire league, however it is not a particularly strong or powerful division. The division consists of the Atlanta Hawks, the Charlotte Hornets, the Miami Heat, the Orlando Magic, and the Washington Wizards.
Perhaps the two best teams in the Southeast Division are none other than the Atlanta Hawks and the Miami Heat. However, we believe that the Miami Heat have the greatest likelihood of winning the division, followed closely by the Atlanta Hawks, led by their prolific guard Trae Young.
Western Conference Divisions
Similar to the Eastern Conference, the Western Conference also has three divisions within the conference. These divisions are divided into the following:
The Northwest Division has some formidable teams within its roster. This division includes the Denver Nuggets, the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Portland Trailblazers, and the Utah Jazz. And with players such as Nikola Jokic and Damian Lillard within the division, they are one of the most fun and dynamic divisions in the entire league.
In our humble opinion, the Pacific Division is the strongest division in the league in the 2021-22 NBA season. With the likes of the Golden State Warriors, the Los Angeles Clippers, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Phoenix Suns, and the Sacramento Kings within the division, it is not only a formidable one but also a top contender for the NBA Final’s trophy.
Between Steph Curry, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Kawahi Leonard, and Anthony Davis, the Pacific Division is extremely stacked and is highly likely to win the NBA Finals this year and for many years to come.
The Southwest Division was one of the strongest divisions in the NBA. Consisting of the Dallas Mavericks, the Houston Rockets, the Memphis Grizzlies, the New Orleans Pelicans, and the San Antonio Spurs, the Southwest Division has lost much of its former glory with the demise of the San Antonio Spurs since the retirement of their three superstars.
However, there are still many reasons to watch this division, including Zion Williamson and Luka Doncic. And, as stated above, division leadership can change quickly and rapidly, particularly with a strong draft pick or trade.
How Many Games do NBA Franchise Teams Play Against Division Rivals?
Unsurprisingly, NBA franchise teams play more games against division rivals than any other NBA franchise team. For each team within a particular division, they will face-off against a division rival four times in the regular season. Against rivals from the same conference, an NBA franchise team will face off against one-another a total of three times. And lastly, against opposing conference teams, an NBA franchise team will face-off against one-another twice within the regular season.