Dear NBA, it’s time to shed the old mould of conferences… at least, for playoff seeding.
From a scheduling standpoint in the regular season, it totally makes sense to divide teams into divisions, and conferences – there’s nothing wrong with that system.
For the most part (minus some ‘scheduled rest’) it has created a really exciting brand of basketball.
However, once we got the playoffs this season, things went a bit belly up.
Teams were swept, games were uncompetitive, and the road to the finals was a foregone conclusion – as no-one presented a threat to beat the Cavaliers in the East, and the Warriors (thanks to a Kawhi Leonard foot injury) were too good for everyone in the West.
In fact, (as Game of Zones reminded us) LeBron James has had a free reign on the Eastern conference for the majority of the decade – as no team has managed to get close to toppling the King.
This, by no means, is discrediting LeBron’s dominance as one of the best players we’ve ever seen – but it would be nice to see him challenged before he gets to the Finals.
Now flash forward a few weeks, and we’ve seen three of the best players (not on a LeBron James team) from the Eastern Conference; Jimmy Butler, Paul George and Paul Millsap, all sign with teams in the Western Conference.
All three of them were Eastern Conference All-Stars last season. It’ll be lucky if one of them makes it into the Western Conference All-Star team in 2017/18, and players are starting to take notice.
Allright can we just fusion the east and the west, it’s gettin too unbalanced lol
— Rudy Gobert (@rudygobert27) July 1, 2017
The conferences are as lopsided as we have ever seen them, so if there was ever a time for the NBA to step in and fix their outdated system – it is now.
All four of the major American sports have conferences. Why? Because that’s how things have always been done.
— ESPN (@espn) July 1, 2017
The NBA is a forward-thinking league, and of the four major codes, they would be the first to seriously consider making a change to the playoff seeding.
Now before all the fans of Eastern Conference teams get up in arms, don’t worry – I’m not saying (to begin with) only the top 16 teams should make the playoffs.
In my scenario, the regular season remains the same – and the top eight teams from each conference make the playoffs.
But – once the top 16 are set, they should be ranked from 1 to 16, regardless of division.
The top 8 teams get home court advantage. That’s only fair.
Some teams may cry foul about Eastern conference teams having to travel to the West in the opening round of playoffs.
Well, the NBA has already adjusted the playoff schedule to give teams extra days, where organisations travel in much comfier private planes, so it really isn’t as big of a factor as it was in years gone by.
Perhaps the NBA could look to adjust the first round to only have best-of-five rather than 7 again to make the travel arrangements work.
Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference 🤔 pic.twitter.com/Qx9nv29QaS
— The Ringer (@ringer) July 4, 2017
Suddenly, regular season seeding would mean so much more, because teams would want to avoid travelling during the playoffs at all costs.
Could you imagine if we actually had the chance to see a new NBA Finals rivalry begin because San Antonio could take on the Warriors in June?
Ultimately, we just want to see the best teams face off in the playoffs and in the finals.
Fortunately, we got that this season – but moving forward, with the tidal wave of talent moving west, it’s time to make the change.