I love what the NHL is going to do ... eventually. They are abandoning the six division format and going back to four divisions -- which they will label "conferences". Then, they are going way back and having the first two rounds of the postseason being division (errr, "conference") matchups.
The NHL used to do this back before the southern expansion boom in the early 1990s. It gave us outstandingly chippy postseason series since these guys get sick of each other very quickly.
I wish the NBA would do the same thing.
The NBA has the same amount of teams (30) as the NHL. Right now, the NBA's six division format is a complete joke since conference teams play each other nearly equally anyway. While the postseason is okay as it is, the lack of a strong care for the divisions make them meaningless.
So do one of two things: kill the divisions or do what the NHL is doing.
The first realignment is very simple. Just eliminate the divisions and just have two 15-team conferences. In reality, that's what it is anyway so it would just make it easier for everyone.
EASTERN: Atlanta, Boston, Brooklyn, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Indiana, Miami, Milwaukee, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Toronto, Washington
WESTERN: Dallas, Denver, Golden State, Houston, LA Clippers, LA Lakers, Memphis, Minnesota, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, San Antonio, Utah
Or we can go the other way. I like things that are even ... so the NBA should just contract Charlotte and Sacramento. Ahhhhhh, but that's not happening so the NBA just expands to, say, Seattle and Kansas City (I'd imagine that the Kings will leave Sacramento for Las Vegas or Anaheim pretty soon).
ATLANTIC: Boston, Brooklyn, Miami, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Toronto, Washington
CENTRAL: Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Cleveland, Indiana, Detroit, Milwaukee, Minnesota
MIDWEST: Dallas, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Memphis, New Orleans, Oklahoma City, San Antonio
PACIFIC: Golden State, LA Clippers, LA Lakers, Phoenix, Portland, Sacramento, Seattle, Utah
I love this. As you can see, I put the expansion Seattle SuperSonics in the Pacific and the new Kansas City franchise in the Midwest. I also moved the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Central Division due to the fact that they are closer to the Bucks and Bulls than they are to any franchise in the Western Conference. Kansas City makes sense with Oklahoma City, Memphis and the Texas teams. Look at a map and it makes perfect sense.
Now the playoffs. The top four teams in each division makes the playoff and would play each other in the first four rounds. Let's use the 2011-2012 standings to see how this would shake out (we'll imagine that the expansion Seattle and Kansas City franchises wouldn't have qualified).
ATLANTIC: 1-Miami vs 4-New York, 2-Boston vs 3-Orlando
CENTRAL: 1-Chicago vs 4-Milwaukee, 2-Indiana vs 3-Atlanta
MIDWEST: 1-San Antonio vs 4-Denver, 2-Oklahoma City vs 3-Memphis
PACIFIC: 1-LA Lakers vs 4-Phoenix, 2-LA Clippers vs 3-Utah
The only difference in the Eastern Conference would be that the Bucks made it in and not the Sixers. In the West, the Suns jump in and the Mavericks are knocked out.