The playoffs are starting soon, and most teams have only one or two games left before the regular season ends on Wednesday, April 16. But the Conferences are still lopsided: a .500 team, the 40-40 ‘Wolves, would be the 8 seed in the East and challenging for a 7-seed. Instead, they’ve already been eliminated from the playoffs in the West. The Suns and Grizzlies battling over the final playoff spot out West, would be battling for home-court advantage in the East. During a recent Spurs game, new commissioner Adam Silver said the commissioners office will “take a fresh look at” the format that grants playoff berths to the top eight teams in each Conference. We’re jumping the gun and matching up the best 16 teams — regardless of Conference — for the playoffs this year.
First off, the East has rebounded since the all-star break in February. A host of mid-tier teams turned it around after the break in NOLA (Brooklyn, Toronto, Chicago and even Charlotte all have excellent records since the break), so if the Conference seeding system were refurbished, the West wouldn’t be as dominant as it would have been by looking at the records after the season’s first few months.
But even with the second half push by the Eastern Conference squads already mentioned, the East just isn’t as talented — record wise — as the West, and that’s forgetting to mention all the great teams the West teams had to play, more than they did their overmatched counterparts in the East (NBA teams play every team in their conference four times, but only play the opposing conference teams twice).
Here’s what Silver said about the issue
By way of the Express-News‘ Mike Monroe:
Conducting an in-game interview with Spurs broadcasters Bill Land and Sean Elliott during the telecast of Friday’s Spurs-Suns game at AT&T Center, Silver said the league needs to consider changes to the format that puts the top eight teams in each conference in the playoffs.
“I don’t know that there will be movement,” Silver said about changing the format. “My initial thought is we will take a fresh look at it. When these conferences were designed it was in the day of commercial (air) travel. It was very different moving teams around the country.
“In this day and age when every team is flying charter it changes everything. It’s one of the reasons we moved back to the 2-2-1-1-1 format for this year’s Finals.”
As of this writing, and using the same tiebreakers* the NBA has in place for the Conference seedings right now, here is what the playoff matchups would look like if the teams with the top 16 records in the NBA were entered without carving up the seedings into separate conferences. The home teams are listed first:
1) Spurs – 16) Bobcats
2) Thunder – 15) Wizards
3) Clippers – 14) Nets
4) Pacers – 13) Suns
5) Heat – 12) Bulls
6) Rockets – 11) Raptors
7) Blazers – 10) Grizzlies
8) Warriors – 9) Mavericks
With the new playoff seedings, besides the Pacers and Heat, no other Eastern team would have home-court in the first round.
The Suns and Grizzlies — who face off tonight in perhaps the biggest regular season game in the last decade — would both get in with room to spare. That’s because their current records are hovering around the current Bulls-Raptors battle for the 3-seed in the Eastern Conference.
Is there a single first-round matchup that wouldn’t be amazing? Granted, the Western Conference is going to be like this anyway with so many great teams, but this way every round is intoxicating to ponder.
With no separate conferences, the Bulls and Heat play in the first round! Russell Westbrook vs. John Wall before April is even over? Would the Pacers even be favored over the Suns after the late-season spiral they’ve gone through? The Pacers and Heat, if they survive brutal first round series,’ would meet in the second round! We gotta catch our breath thinking about all of this.
At the very least, with this Conferences-free format we’d get to see the Grizzlies and the Suns — both are deserving of a chance to advance during playoff play. There are so many more intriguing questions when you knock down the current bifurcated system.
Don’t put it past the forward-thinking Silver to institute this sort of playoff seeding some time in the near future. For now, just gaggle at what could have been and remember that the Western Conference playoffs will be getting a lot more pub in the coming weeks — and for good reason.
*(1) Division winner (this criterion is applied regardless of whether the tied teams are in the same division).
(2) Better winning percentage in games against each other.
(3) Better winning percentage against teams in own division (only if tied teams are in same division).
(4) Better winning percentage against teams in own conference.
Which first round matchup above would make you most excited?
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