Divisions, in nearly all professional sports, seem rather arbitrary. Example: No one cares how many NL East crowns the Atlanta Braves won in the ’90s, people cared more about their failures to win multiple World Series.
Really, divisions are rather silly. Outside of being used for logistic purposes when the NBA makes their schedules, I have yet to hear a fan brag about their team winning a division back in the day, or that time Player-X carried Team-Y all the way to the top of the Pacific Division… only to fall short in the NBA Playoffs.
Thing is, honestly, the fans and media only care about one thing; who is winning the NBA outright and how many times can they do it. Everything else is hogwash, piggypockety (patent pending), and water under a bridge filled with garbage — it does not matter.
So it makes sense that the NBA — finally — has decided to change the format of the NBA Playoffs from here-on-out. Gone are division winners taking a spot ahead in seeding in the playoffs from a team with a (often times far) better record. In its place is something simple, honest, and long overdue — the NBA will seed the playoffs with the teams with the best eight records in each conference going forward.
And, naturally, some people have not taken kindly to the idea of a non-division winner getting the better seed than a division-winner with a worse one because people hate new things or something.
Putting as much stock as the NBA has put into the importance of divisions over the years has always seemed rather misguided. If fans, media, and the like actually cared if their team won their respective divisions then I suppose it would make sense, but again, no one cares. If you are the person who says you care now, well, it is likely only because you are worried that your below .500 record team — while playing in a horrible division — will now somehow be shoved out by the new seeding system.
No matter. People who somehow, likely unintentionally ironically, hate this move will have to deal. However, this should not be the end of Adam Silver, owners of NBA teams, and others’ attempts to fix the format of the NBA Playoffs.
Divisions are silly. So, too, are not having the best 16 teams in the league playing in the playoffs. While the Eastern Conference has been doo-doo for a minute now, hurling sub-500 team in the eight-seed after sub-500 team, franchises in the Western Conference are left out of the playoffs despite often times having far better records. That should probably be fixed. A league should reward the “teams with the best records” and not bow down to something as semantical as fictional lines being drawn up and coined as conferences.
In all honesty, by not allowing the very best teams in the league to be showcased in the playoffs the NBA is actually doing a disservice to the game. Continuing to allow some misguided allegiance to the idea of conferences to determine which teams are allowed to participate in some postseason fun is like letting a satellite provider salesperson to get you to sign a lifetime contract with his company simply because he is there — it makes no sense.
Not to mention the fact that the NBA suffers from having far too many teams in the playoffs anyway. With over half of the league being allowed to play in the postseason, the regular season suffers. There’s very little urgency in the NBA regular season because — especially if “your team” plays in the weaker conference — all a team has to do is be better than an abomination to get in (and, really, that team is usually better off not making the playoffs anyway from a franchise-building standpoint).
So, yeah, tweaks and turns and more tweaks need to be added to fix the NBA Playoffs to the point of it making the game more enjoyable from a season’s-long perspective, but essentially abolishing the fictional lines made up for the sake of having divisions is certainly a solid start. Next step is murdering more fictional lines made up by some sort of Western/Eastern allegiances or whatever, and stop letting teams whose roster is composed of decomposing corpses in the playoffs.
All and all, the NBA going away from the divisions having such a heavy hand in determining playoff seeding is a great thing. It truly is. Like all things in sports though, it isn’t enough. Baby steps are needed, I guess, but then again, if it took NBA owners this long to realize that divisions are rather null-and-void after years’ worth of proof punching them in the face having already told them that, I suppose we can expect another playoff format change right around the time Kanye West wins the 2020 Presidential election.