Most of this summer’s off season moves have shifted the balance of power in the NBA further west re-invigorating the argument for a change to the playoff format and, by inference, how the regular season is played out. So, should NBA commissioner Adam Silver consider making changes?
The desire for owners in the West that blew it and have fallen out of playoff contention like the Dallas Mavericks Mark Cuban or teams hoping to crack a tough top eight in West for the first time in a long time like the Timberwolves or Kings can try to make the case that it would be easier in the East, but the NBA Writer’s Blogtable (on 7-12-2017) didn’t hold back in shooting down any ideas about making changes to how the playoffs are seeded.
Steve Aschburner: we’re supposed to get all bent out of shape and throw tradition overboard because of a couple of seasons of stronger low seeds in the West?
Fran Blinebury: if I were Mark Cuban, I’d still be kicking myself for breaking up the 2011 championship team. … I really don’t want to start hearing their crying in April when they have to go Miami to Portland in the first round.
Scott Howard-Cooper: it’s an interesting idea to debate from a competition standpoint, but flawed and impractical in many ways.
Shaun Powell: you’re only hearing this noise from owners and coaches of teams in the West who are fighting for the last few playoff crumbs.
Ian Thomsen: it would be heresy for the Celtics and Lakers (or Cavaliers and Warriors) to meet anytime other than the championship round.
Lang Whitaker:if you’re going to do away with Conferences, then do away with them altogether in favor of one big table of all thirty teams.But at some point someone will come along and make the East great again.
Whitaker emphasizes the biggest problem with changing the current playoff format. To do it fairly, any change to how the postseason is run needs to be reflected in the regular season and too much travel is already a major issue with the current unbalanced East/West schedule.
The NBA has been making changes every year in an attempt to ease the rigors of the schedule on its players. Back-to-backs are down, a longer break is being provided around the All-Star Weekend, fewer preseason games are being played and more days are being added to the schedule.
Increasing travel for players during the regular season or the playoffs isn’t, and will likely never be, on the table and it shouldn’t be.
If anything, changes to the schedule should be stealing from the other major professional leagues, MLB and NHL. In those leagues, more games are played within divisions to both save money and travel time, but more importantly create rivalries that are not dependent on unpredictable meetings in the postseason.
The NBA doesn’t have to and probably shouldn’t just copy what MLB and the NHL does with their schedules, rather, they should find the model that protects NBA traditions while maintaining the opportunity to see every other NBA franchise in your building at least once per year.
It shouldn’t be all that hard to accomplish.
Teams within a division would play 22 times. 5 times against each “rival” every year, plus two additions games within the division.
Teams outside a division, but with the same conference would play 30 times on 2 home, 1 away or 1 home, 2 away format.
Games against the other conference would continue on the current 1 home, 1 away schedule totaling 30 games.
Playing teams within your own division 5 or 6 times a season will, over time, make these games more important and should help create more regular season rivalries.
However, the real reasons for modifying the regular season schedule and not touching the current playoff format are the same as in the NHL and MLB. It saves money, travel and some wear and tear on the players.
Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.