Culture of Hoops

Forget the conferences, what should the NBA playoffs really look like?

Photo by Steven Covella | Baller Mind Frame.

Photo by Steven Covella | Baller Mind Frame.

Dear Adam Silver,

If you really want to make your mark as the new commissioner of the NBA, do us all a favor and throw out the conference playoffs. Instead, take the 16 teams with the best records, keep the seven-game format, and get rid of the 2-3-2 format. Do that and you may not get booed at this year’s NBA Draft like David Stern used to get booed.

This would be a great year to do away with the conference playoffs. Some NBA analysts are saying there is a lot of parity in this season but that is not true. This is not college basketball. The truth is, the West is very good and the East is very bad: the Phoenix Suns (38-28) would be the third-best team in the East! Instead they’re are a game back of the Memphis Grizzlies (39-27) for the eighth spot in the West. That’s not parity, that’s pathetic. If the NBA took the 16 best teams, Phoenix would be an 11-seed and face Dwight Howard and the sixth-seeded Houston Rockets (44-22) in the first round. Now doesn’t that sound like more fun considering how great these teams are offensively?

Obviously, the only reason the current playoff system exists is to decide a conference champion. Just give that crown to the teams who finish with the best records in those conferences and keep it moving. Going to a non-conference, 16-team format makes more sense and gives sports analysts and lovers alike even more to talk about.

The best example of this is the Miami Heat. At 45-19, the Heat have the fifth-best record in the league. That’s right, the Heat would not even be sniffing a two-seed in this format. As a fifth-seed, Miami would face the 12-seeded Toronto Raptors (37-28) who are currently the third best team in the East. The Heat would probably survive that match-up but guess who that would face in the second round? Miami would get the winner of the 4 vs. 13 matchup between the Los Angeles Clippers (48-20) and Chicago Bulls (37-29). This would easily be the best first-round series of them all. Who is not going to tune in to watch Joakim Noah and Blake Griffin go at each other? Who isn’t going to tune in to see the chess match between Doc Rivers and Tom Thibodeau? Do you think the Heat will want any part of the Bulls or Clippers in the second round?

Some other potentially good series would be the 3 vs. 14 matchup between the Oklahoma City Thunder (48-18) and Washington Wizards (35-31). The potential to see point guards Russell Westbrook and John Wall square off could be fun to watch. This format would also feature a solid 8 vs. 9 series between the Golden State Warriors (42-26) and Dallas Mavericks (40-27), featuring two of the league’s best shooters in Stephen Curry and Dirk Nowitzki. Another team who may not enjoy the first round could be the Indiana Pacers (49-17). In this 16-team format, Paul George and the second-seeded Pacers would have to take on the Brooklyn Nets, who would come in as the 15-seed. A few months ago many thought the Nets were all but dead but they have become as good as predicted and could pose a serious threat to the Pacers in any playoff format.

While the NBA will probably never adopt this format out of sheer tradition, it could help the new commissioner in his quest to make the NBA just as popular as the NFL. The NBA has an advantage over the NFL in that its athletes are more visible but it is at a disadvantage when it comes to its playoff system. The NFL playoff system has more hype because it’s best teams are squaring off for one shot at a championship. While the NBA should never adopt a one-and-done format, it could become more appealing if some of the matchups actually made sense. For example, the Atlanta Hawks (29-35) should be focusing on the draft and free agents instead of trying to figure out how to avoid a potential sweep against the Pacers. It’s like Sweet Brown said, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

Featured image courtesy of Josh Hallett/Flickr.

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