An NBA Playoffs with No Conferences?


Let’s be honest, how much do you really enjoy watching the 1 vs 8 matchup in the playoffs? Yeah I didn’t think so. Only on a few occasions have an eighth seed taken down a one seed in the NBA playoffs. Actually, since the beginning of the NBA, a meager five 8th seeded teams have beaten the 1st seed and only one of them made the Finals (1999 Knicks), which they lost. So should the NBA consider dropping the traditional Western and Eastern Conference labels in general and have the best 16 teams play in the playoffs? Here are two suggestions I think would make for a more exciting post season, unlike the boring and constant blowout ridden series we have witnessed for years.

The first suggestion I have is to take the top sixteen teams from both sides and have them do NCAA style Sweet Sixteen match-up format. Now I know you may be thinking, “Well a 1 vs 16 match-up won’t be any better than a 1 vs 8 series”. But actually this format could make for a more competitive playoffs and better series for fans. As recently as last year, a team with a sub .500 record made the playoffs, while the 45-37 Thunder were bounced out due to a one game advantage they had lost to the Pelicans in February of 2015. For a long time, the Western Conference has been the more dominant of the two, really starting after the Bulls last 3-peat championship in 1998.

Since the 1998-1999 season, twelve out of the possible sixteen NBA champions have come from the Western Conference. If we changed the 2014-15 playoffs to the proposed format, the outlook would be considerably different. The match-ups and team standings would be set only by wins and losses, not division ranking. With the higher seed among the match ups gaining home court advantage as they advance through the rounds. If teams who are facing each other have the same record, regular season W/L series standings would be used to decide who gets HCA, if for some reason it cannot be decided that way the team with more points scored between the two would gain HCA. Last years series would have looked like so:

  1. Golden State Warriors (67-15) vs Boston Celtics (40-42)
  2. Atlanta Hawks (60-22) vs Milwaukee Bucks (41-41)
  3. Houston Rockets (56-26) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (45-37)
  4. Los Angeles Clippers (56-26) vs New Orleans Pelicans (45-37)
  5. Memphis Grizzlies (55-27) vs Washington Wizards (46-36)
  6. San Antonio Spurs (55-27) vs Toronto Raptors (49-33)
  7. Cleveland Cavaliers (53-29) vs Dallas Mavericks (50-32)
  8. Portland Trail Blazers (51-31) vs Chicago Bulls (50-32)

As you can see with this change of format, the match ups are relatively closer in win/loss record. Also a team like the Brooklyn Nets, who were six games under .500 at 38-44, wouldn’t earn a playoff spot over a team like the Thunder who completed the season over .500. Having teams playing each other based on just the amount of regular season games they won, we would get more competitive match ups due to the fact they proved that they were the best 16 teams in the NBA that season and not just put in because they played in a weaker conference.

The second and final suggestion I have is similar to my first proposal. The only difference I would make would be eliminating the high vs low seed format. As I mentioned earlier, nobody truly likes watching the 1 vs 8 seed match up, that is unless you’re a 1st seed team fan and want to watch your squad sweep the 8th seed in four games. Now if you’re a real basketball fan like myself, you love to watch the best possible match up every game. With this proposal, I would make teams seeded next to each other duke it out to see who is the best. By that I mean a 1st seed vs 2nd seed, 3rd vs 4th, 5th vs 6th etc. This format would have closer ranked teams in win/loss record playing, which would most likely lead to longer series, better match ups in teams skill and more money for the NBA. Last years playoffs would have been set up like so:

  1. Golden State Warriors (67-15) vs Atlanta Hawks (60-22)
  2. Houston Rockets (56-26) vs Los Angeles Clippers (56-26)
  3. Memphis Grizzlies (55-27) vs San Antonio Spurs (55-27)
  4. Cleveland Cavaliers (53-29) vs Portland Trail Blazers (51-31)
  5. Chicago Bulls (50-32) vs Dallas Mavericks (50-32)
  6. Toronto Raptors (49-33) vs Washington Wizards (46-36)
  7. New Orleans Pelicans (45-37) vs Oklahoma City Thunder (45-37)
  8. Milwaukee Bucks (41-41) vs Boston Celtics (40-42)

With the elimination of Conference standings and any tie breaker situations, these series look a lot more promising than the originals. I like the idea of getting rid of the Conference separation and having teams play each other strictly based on how you performed in the regular season. Having closer ranked teams playing, would ultimately lead to longer series, which means more basketball for everyone. The NBA of course would enjoy that, gaining more money from having more series possibly going to game sevens. As basketball fans, we would enjoy watching teams who are evenly matched playing each other for once, not the inevitable first round sweep or 4-1 series we’ve become accustomed too. Hopefully one day the NBA will utilize one of these formats proposed, but for now we will have to live with what is being presented to us. Until then keep it locked to NBALEAD.com for all your playoff news, recaps and any other NBA needs!

About Emanuel Godina

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