NBA Playoffs: In Search of a New Format

Divya ParmarSenior Analyst IFebruary 20, 2008

Think about the Golden State Warriors, at 32-21, being one game out of the playoffs in the Western Conference. 

The Chicago Bulls, at 21-31, are only one game out of the playoff race in the Eastern (Leastern) Conference. 

The East is a total JV league if the Bulls, who absolutely stink, are even in playoff contention.

The No. 8 seed in the West is 10.5 games ahead of the 8th seed in the East.  A team in the West with 50 wins could miss the playoffs while a team with only 34 wins in the East could make the playoffs.

Another Stat: John Hollinger's playoff odds on say the Sacramento Kings have about a 1 percent chance of making the playoffs in the Western Conference.  The Washington Wizards, with the EXACT same record,  have an 80 percent chance of making the playoffs because they are in the Eastern Conference.

The East is a joke.  The third seed in the East, the Orlando Magic, could miss the playoffs in the West.  That shows how deep the West is, and just how shallow the East is. Besides two to four teams in the East, the rest of the teams are garbage.  There are 10, maybe 11, quality teams in the West.

The answer to this problem is a 16-team playoff, with the 16 best teams in the league, regardless of conference. That may mean the playoffs could consist of 11 West teams and only 5 East teams, but so be it.  It would be the most fair and would reward the best teams.  This idea has already been suggested by Warriors play-by-play man, Bob Fitzgerald.

Sure there are problems.  The Boston Celtics could play the Warriors, and the LA Lakers could play the Detroit Pistons.  That would lead to lots of travel headaches, but for that the early rounds would go to a 2-3-2 format, instead of the regular 2-2-1-1-1.  That would save some travel time.

Fans want to see the best teams play against each other for a more exciting playoffs.  They don't want to see the crappy Philadelphia 76ers or the New Jersey Nets (without Jason Kidd) get destroyed in the first round.  We saw how weak the East was last year when the Cleveland Caveliers got swept in the NBA Finals by the San Antonio Spurs. 

Think about it another way. Just say, for argument's sake, that in 20 years, power swings to the East, and the East deserves 10 or 11 playoff teams. The system would then reward the Eastern Conference. The system would always be fair, and balance out the conferences.  

All in all, lets reward the teams with the best seasons.  Let's fix this unbalanced conferences and spice up the playoffs with this best 16 teams idea.