The NBA Is More Balanced Than It Has Ever Been, Why Is There More Parity in the League Now?

More teams have legitimate hopes for a deep playoff run than ever before.

LeBron James Nikola Jokic


 The NBA has not had a repeat champion since the 2018 Finals, which highlights the parity in the league.

 Nearly half of NBA teams are competitive, with playoff brackets running deeper than ever before and no true frontrunner.
 Increased talent influx contributes to league parity, and international players have increased the talent pool.

The NBA has always been a league characterized by dynasties, dominant teams, and star players teaming up to win championships. From its inception in 1947, a few teams held the power in the league, starting with the Minneapolis Lakers winning five titles in a six-year span.

Next came Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics, who took home 11 championships in 13 years before giving way to a pretty evenly dispersed 1970s. However, the 70s also proved to be the NBA’s darkest decade, experiencing a major decline until Larry Bird and Magic Johnson saved the league with their own respective dynasties.

After Bird’s Celtics won three rings and Johnson’s Lakers won five, Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls ruled the 1990s with six titles before the Lakers and SSan Antonio Spurs combined for nine of the 12 championships from 1999 to 2010. The 2010s were then taken over by LeBron James and the Golden State Warriors’ dynasty, before giving way to the incredible parity of the 2020s.

The Competitive Balance of the 2020s Has been Impressive

There hasn’t been a repeat champion since 2018

Kevin Durant Golden State Warriors

After Kevin Durant’s Golden State Warriors took home back-to-back titles in 2017-18, there have been five consecutive unique champions: the Toronto Raptors, Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, Warriors, and Denver Nuggets. The last time there were five unique champions was 1975-1979 when the league was floundering due partly to a lack of talent.

Titles By Time Period



Celtics, Lakers


Spurs, Lakers

Warriors, LeBron

There is no shortage of talent in today’s league, but none of these teams has been criticized by NBA fans for being “too stacked”, mostly because their rosters haven’t been overly talented relative to the rest of the league. These front offices have built champions through perfectly fitting rosters and continuity, revealing a trend in modern basketball.

After over a decade of the “superteam” era, which has extended throughout most of NBA history, the prevailing wisdom in front offices has moved towards building a great team where all the pieces fit. Add in the absurd influx of talent that today’s game features, through the expansion of foreign players in the league as well as better competition available to American-born players, and you have a league where nearly every team feels like they have enough guys to compete in the near future.

Nearly Half the Teams in the League are Legitimate Playoff Threats

More squads than ever believe they can make a deep postseason run

Bennedict Mathurin Indiana Pacers

In a typical NBA season, there are around four to six teams that truly think they have a chance to take home the Larry O’Brien trophy, with maybe two dark horses that feel they can at least make a deep playoff run. Usually, the bottom of the playoff bracket in both conferences consists of squads that are likely first-round warmups for the true contenders at the top of the standings. It could not be more opposite over the past few seasons, especially in 2023-24.

With little over a week left in the campaign, there are still zero first-round series set in stone as the standings remain airtight down the stretch. There are still only five games separating the Eastern Conference’s second-seed and eighth-seed, while the West’s fourth-seed is only five games ahead of the ninth-seed. The first seed in the West is also contested between three teams within one game of each other.

Seeding Races


1.0 Games

5.0 Games

5.0 Games

Needless to say, this has been as competitive of a regular season as ever before, and the standings reflect the plethora of franchises that will be disappointed if they fail to advance deep into the playoffs. 18 teams are at least seven games over .500, and all of these squads rightfully believe they can win at least one round in the tournament. Contrast that with the 2017 NBA season, where only 10 teams were seven games above .500, and maybe five thought they could make a run.

Furthermore, the Celtics, Bucks, Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Miami Heat, Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder, LA Clippers, Dallas Mavericks, and Phoenix Suns all have a considerable chance to make the Conference Finals, while the New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, Lakers, Orlando Magic, Indiana Pacers, and Warriors have an outside chance to make a run of their own. This level of unpredictability going into the playoffs is completely unprecedented for a team that has traditionally been run by a few superstars for their respective eras.

Why Is There More Parity in the League Now?

There are more talented players than ever before

Nikola Jokic and LeBron James

The biggest factor driving the incredible competitive balance that exists in the NBA today is the exponentially increasing influx of talent into the league. For a sports league that has been mostly pulling from a pool of American players with a few exceptions, the availability of European players as well as talent from countries around the world has completely changed the landscape.

Pair this increase in great players with the variety of routes that players can now take to develop into ready-made NBA contributors, and it is becoming more difficult to build a roster that rises above the rest.

The last five MVP winners are all foreign-born players, and the 2024 MVP race is coming down to four foreign-born players again, in Luka Dončić, Nikola Jokić, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Giannis Antetokounmpo. These four are considered consensus top-five players in the league, with Joel Embiid being the fifth.

Last 5 NBA MVP’s


Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Nikola Jokić

Nikola Jokić

Joel Embiid

When you add all this international talent to American-born stars like Kevin Durant, Jayson Tatum, Anthony Edwards, Devin Booker, and so many more, you get a league with extremely balanced teams.

Sure, the Celtics and Nuggets are still considerable favorites to win their conferences, but there are more realistic challengers than ever before. These NBA playoffs are bound to be some of the most competitive fans have ever seen.

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