The NBA is mulling tweaks to its product in the wake of more and more stars moving to Western Conference teams, and commissioner Adam Silver said Sunday one they will “continue to look at” is the possibility of ignoring conferences and reseeding teams 1-16 for the playoffs regardless of conference. Following the decision last week to go away from the East vs. West all-star game format, Silver said before a preseason game in Shanghai Sunday that they’ll consider playoff tweaks too, but schedule adjustments might be needed first. Here’s more from ESPN’s Nick Friedell:
“Reformatting the playoffs is something we’ll continue to look at,” Silver said before a preseason game between the Golden State Warriors and the Minnesota Timberwolves at Mercedes Benz Arena. “I think though it would require revisiting the regular-season schedule as well. As I’ve said before, we don’t play a balanced schedule now, as I’m sure you know. And for those that don’t, that means that teams in the East play each other more than they play teams in the West. And our feeling is, if we were going to seed 1-16, we would need to play a balanced schedule to make it fair for everyone if we were going to seed 1-16 in the playoffs. It may be that as we continue to experiment with the number of days over which we can schedule 82 games that it will create more of an opportunity for a balanced schedule.”
So, there are some challenges to overcome if this is ever going to take effect. But what would it mean if it did? Well, here’s what the first-round matchups would have looked like in 2016-17 under this proposed system, going off ESPN’s league standings.
1. 67-15 Golden State vs. 16. 41-41 Chicago.
2. 61-21 San Antonio vs. 15. 41-41 Portland.
3. 55-27 Houston vs. 14. 42-40 Indiana.
4. 53-29 Boston vs. 13. 42- 40 Milwaukee.
5. 51-31 Cleveland vs. 12. 43-39 Memphis.
6. 51-31 Utah vs. 11. 43-39 Atlanta.
7. 51-31 Toronto vs. 10. 47-35 Oklahoma City.
8. 51-31 L.A. Clippers vs. 9. 49-33 Washington.
That’s the same teams that made it under the current system, but some very different matchups. In particular, it really changes things for Houston, who would get a 42-40 Indiana team instead of 47-35 Oklahoma City (the matchup seen at top), and for Utah and the Clippers, who would get Atlanta and Washington instead of facing each other. Boston and Cleveland wind up with tougher opponents here, as do the Raptors.
A lot would depend on what schedule tweaks would be made here too, of course. Silver’s right that a more balanced schedule would probably be necessary; some of those East teams perhaps have inflated records from who they play, while some West teams might be lower than they would be if they played weaker competition. And he also makes the valid point that the league is trying to improve rest and reduce travel, and a balanced schedule with more cross-country travel might hurt those efforts. So there’s a long way to go before this would come in. But if it did, it might well benefit some top West teams.