NBA playoff format change would be welcome

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In just over one year as commissioner of the NBA Adam Silver has been, appropriately so, lauded as being much more progressive and far sighted than his predecessor, David Stern.

From dealing with the Donald Sterling situation barely three months into his tenure to his willingness to consider changes to the current draft lottery process to his liberalized stance on, if not outright endorsement of, legalized sports betting Silver’s words and actions thus far appear to be in tune with the tenor of the times as measured by a vast number of public opinion polls.

One issue he has somewhat endorsed is the consideration of revamping the playoff structure from the current format that takes the top eight teams from each conference and determines the two league champions that will meet in the NBA Finals.

One plan under discussion would eliminate any distinction between the conferences and just take the teams with the 16 best records and seed them 1 through 16 without any regard to conference affiliation.

Such a change would make it possible for a pair of teams from the same conference to meet in the NBA Finals. For that matter, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that the version of the NBA’s Final Four would involve four teams from the same conference.

If that plan were implemented this season imagine the following first round matchups using the standings through this past Sunday: Top seeded Golden State would face 16 seed New Orleans; Second seeded Atlanta would face 15 seed Phoenix; Memphis, the third seed, would face No. 14 Oklahoma City; Fourth seeded Toronto would face the 13 seed, Milwaukee.

Overall seeds 5 through 8 would also have the home court advantage in the opening round with fifth seeded Houston facing 12 seed Washington, No. 6 LA Clippers facing 11 Cleveland, 7 Dallas facing 10 San Antonio and 8 Portland facing 9 Chicago.

All 16 teams currently have winning records while the 14 teams that would not make it in using this format have losing records. There would be 10 teams from the Western Conference and six from the East. Miami (22-31) and Brooklyn (22-31) would be out. Benefitting from this proposal would be the teams currently sitting ninth and tenth in the Western Conference, Phoenix (29-27) and New Orleans (28-27).

There is a lot to like about this potential revision. Much has changed since the NBA was formed nearly 70 years ago when travel conditions were more primitive than they are today and, more significantly, the country’s population was considerably less mobile.

Television was in its infancy back then. Both cable TV and the Internet were not even on the radar of most visionaries in the late 1940’s. Regional rivalries were the life blood of the young league, a concept that persisted into the 1970’s.

The NBA no longer relies on local fan bases for its popularity. Actual gate receipts (i.e. live attendance) account for only a small portion of league revenues with the monster TV contracts that have been around for many years.

A dramatic revision of the current Playoffs structure is not as far fetched or as radical as it might appear. The “best interests of the game” would be better served by having the 16 best teams compete in the playoffs regardless of conference affiliation.

Of course there would still be some unfairness as an 82-game schedule would not allow for exact balance. It would require, most likely, teams to face 24 teams three times each season and 5 teams just twice. But it would, in most seasons, prevent teams with losing records from having a chance to win the NBA Title while keeping teams with winning records on the sidelines.

Active trading

The trade deadline has passed and saw a record number of players changing teams. Some of the contenders stood pat and others made some tweaks to add depth or fill specific needs with less than two months remaining in the regular season.

There was some speculation that coming out of the long All-Star break scoring would be down for the first few games as teams worked off some rust. Not so. Although it is a small sample from which hard and fast conclusions should not be drawn, the 29 games played between last Thursday and Sunday produced 14 OVERS, 14 UNDERS and 1 push.

Starting the week the OVER held a 427-379-21 edge (53%). The slant toward the UNDER is illustrated by the fact no team has played more than 60 percent OVERS. The best OVER team is Indiana (33-23).

Here are three interesting matchups this weekend.

OKC at Portland (Fri.): Oklahoma City played Thursday night at Phoenix while Portland last played on Wednesday, hosting San Antonio. OKC is expected to be without star Kevin Durant who is battling foot issues and Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge missed Sunday’s game against Memphis. The potential absence of Durant and the quick turnaround and travel from Thursday should provide added value with the Thunder. OKLAHOMA CITY.

San Antonio at Phoenix (Sat.): The Spurs started slowly after the All-Star break, dropping games at the Clippers and Warriors on back to back nights. Phoenix is playing with the greater need as the Suns start the week two games out of the eighth playoff spot. The situation favors the hosts in what should be a competitively priced game. PHOENIX.

LA Clippers at Chicago (Sun.):  The Clippers are dealing with the absence of injured Blake Griffin but started this week having both won and covered four in a row, all without him. Chicago, playing the fifth game of a seven game home stand, should be favored by a couple of buckets, offering value on the Clippers who, if they win, would be in a go-against spot the following evening visiting Minnesota. LA CLIPPERS.

Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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