In between the noise and the festivities of All-Star weekend, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver dropped an interesting piece of information about a possible change to the current playoff format.
The proposal would keep qualifications the same (placing in the top eight of the conference), while introducing a playoff seeding format that would include both conferences (1v16, 2v15, etc.). This would make East versus West pairings possible without having to make the Finals. If the regular season ended today, the first round alone would showcase Celtics-Trail Blazers (Kyrie vs. Dame), Timberwolves-Bucks (two exciting up and coming teams), and Cavaliers-Nuggets (both top ten offenses). Although the past few NBA Finals have continually set record viewership ratings, increasing the likelihood of the top two teams in the league being able to matchup in the last round would not be damaging to that trend. Can you imagine watching a 7 game series between the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets. The ratings for this series would be unprecedented.
As it stands currently, a team must finish the regular season within the top eight spots of their conference to qualify for the postseason. The higher seeded teams play the corresponding lower seeded teams in their respective conference, which continues until there is only one team from each conference to play in the Finals. Here is where the issue lies: the Eastern conference has been historically weaker than the Western Conference for around twenty years now. In the last twenty years, a Western Conference team has won the championship thirteen times. This power imbalance has been a point of discussion for some time now, especially with the offseason moves of Paul George and Jimmy Butler. It can also be seen in this year’s All-Star game participants. The Eastern Conference players have had 53 total All-Star game selections, while the Western Conference All-Stars share 62 among themselves.
Discussions about switching up the playoff format have been gaining some traction over the last few years. Ideally, the league would like to have the best teams matching up, regardless of conference. This would make the postseason much more exciting for the entire league and fans alike.
One proposal was to change the playoff format into the top sixteen teams in the entire league. While this would give us the absolute best competition, Eastern Conference teams would probably not vote for this change because they would likely be underrepresented in the playoffs, ultimately affecting that sweet, sweet postseason revenue. Along with that, the schedule would have to be readjusted so East and West teams played each other an equal number of times throughout the regular season so no team would be at a disadvantage for making the playoffs. The entire schedule would also have to be redesigned so players from both conferences would not be strongly impacted by the effects of coast to coast traveling .
Ultimately, Adam Silver’s concept of a possible postseason modification brings the best of both worlds to the table. It sets the stage for more exciting matchups, while ensuring that each conference is equally represented in the playoffs. Many within and following the NBA have been clamoring for a change to the current format. Hopefully, the league office and teams can get together to discuss these changes ASAP.