The NBA's newfound parity creates a bold new basketball world

A surprising trend has emerged in the playoffs, with 3 small or medium-market teams making the conference finals, proving the NBA now has an even playing field.
Anthony Edward
Anthony Edward / David Berding/GettyImages
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A surprising trend has emerged in the 2024 NBA playoffs, resulting in the postseason being far more unpredictable than in recent years. Unlike other North American sports leagues, the NBA is often dominated by dynasties, usually from big-market cities, leading to a lack of parity. However, that has changed dramatically, with small or medium-market teams seemingly having an equal chance to win it all now.

We're seeing that on full display in this year's NBA playoffs, with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Denver Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Indiana Pacers all making the semi-finals, with the Timberwolves, Mavericks, and Pacers making it to the conference finals.

The way the NBA has been structured has led to dynasties being built in big-market cities but that is obviously beginning to change. Take the Golden State Warriors for instance; they made six of the last nine Western Conference Finals but failed to make the playoffs despite having one of the highest payrolls in the league.

Other big-market teams, such as the Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, and Philadelphia 76ers, were first-round fodder. While that may seem like a one-off, it is a sign of a changing league.

The NBA's changing landscape has given small-market teams a fair shot.

The Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Cleveland Cavaliers, and San Antonio Spurs—all considered small or medium market teams—have either made the Finals or won in the last ten years, upending the typical big-market slugfests we usually see. For instance, the Boston Celtics and Lakers have made a combined 54 of the 76 NBA Finals, with them also combining for 34 championships.

While the Celtics appear to be the favorites to win it all this year, they will be going up against the Pacers. The Pacers have often been among the best-run teams in the league and have consistently been competitive despite playing in Indiana.