Breaking News: There is a way for the NBA to solve all of its problems.
I’ll go further than that and say that there is a way the NBA can make its league as popular and exciting as the NFL—or at least close to it.
It doesn’t require any changes in the salary cap, luxury tax, rookie wage scale, revenue sharing or any of that complicated stuff. It just requires breaking the entire concept of professional sports down into its purest, most simple form.
Before you flip through this slideshow, keep two things in mind: One, right now the NBA is not rolling in the dough, and two, there are not a ton of NBA fans right now, and worse yet, there are a ton of people who flat out hate the NBA.
I’m talking completely random matchups.
No odds or records taken into account, no selection committee or BCS mathematical formula, no nothing. Just a man, his iPhone and a random number generator app.
Seeds don’t matter; they cease to exist.
If you’re one of the top eight teams in a conference, you make the playoffs and look to a machine to tell you who and where you will be playing.
After advancing past the first round, the playoffs continue as they normally would with a team advancing through whatever half of the bracket they are randomly put in.
Your head-to-head record against a team decides whether you get home-court advantage in that series.
Here’s the beauty of it: Teams don’t know who they’re going to get matched up against in the playoffs. (Remember, it’s all random.) In other words, regular season “potential playoff previews” just got a a lot more exciting. Actually, the regular season in general just got a lot more exciting. Hell, the NBA just became awesome.
Think about how boring the NBA season becomes over the last couple of months. A lot of teams have their general playoff position locked up; the injuries have piled on; teams rest players; some teams are in full tanking mode, others in coasting mode.
This home-court element of these randomly selected playoffs fixes all of that. (More on tanking later.)
To make this work, though, the NBA would have to adopt a schedule that is consistent for every team.
The NBA would like to shorten the season, but they can’t seem to settle on the right number of games. 66 is a little too low for their liking, and 82 is a bit watered down. If they actually shorten the NBA schedule (I’m talking real life), they are likely to settle on 72 games.
Personally, I like 71.
Sure, 71 is an odd number, which means an uneven amount of home/away games, but playing 71 games is the only way each team can play four games against every team in their conference (total of 14 other teams) while playing each team in the other conference (total of 15 other teams) one time per season. Yes, teams will play against each opposite conference team one measly time.
This is also the only way the league can eliminate back-to-back games and extensive opposite coast road trips. Basically, this isn’t just a new and improved version of the NBA; this is the no excuses NBA. We’re eliminating all excuses by giving each and every team the same set of excuses.
If you split a season series 2-2 against a team in your conference, the home-court tiebreaker goes to the team with the better overall record. So if you were wondering, yes, a teams overall record is still very much an important thing. But that’s just about all it is important for. That and fans being able to gloat about their team having the best record in the league; that type of stuff will never die off.
Baseball does this, and it is dumb.
But that’s baseball; this is basketball, so we’re talking about two completely different things.
Because home court in every playoff series would be determined by the team that won the season series of four head-to-head games, it would only make complete and perfect sense for the All-Star game to adopt this as a means of determining home court in the Finals.
The best teams in the league always get the most representation at the All-Star game. It isn’t like baseball where every team is represented by at least one player, and the starters come out of the game after the fourth inning.
This is how you fix the tanking problems. ESPN’s Bill Simmons founded this idea and dubbed it, “The Entertaining as Hell Tournament.” It’s the icing on the cake to everything I have just laid out.
For those who are not familiar, “The Entertaining as Hell Tournament” is where the bottom nine teams in each conference play a one game elimination tournament to decide who gets in as the eighth seed.
Another one of Simmons' ideas.
He calls this, "The Envelope Lottery."
In addition to this tournament, they would change the draft lottery so that all the non-playoff teams received the exact same odds. It would be completely random just like the playoff seeding.
The teams that win their respective tournaments and make the playoffs are still included in the pool of lottery teams, which would now consist of 16 teams instead of 14.
This is the part where it gets real fun and ultimately what would make this whole random playoff seeding worth it.
Disagree with this playoff format all you want, but don’t tell me you’re not going to watch a one hour TV broadcast where they unveil the playoff seeding matchups.
You’re going to watch.
This is the type of TV America lives for. I can’t decide if I would be more excited for the selection show or for Skip Bayless on ESPN First Take the next morning.
Imagine, you have this three-day win or go home tournament for each of the final two playoff spots. The two games will be played on a Thursday night and covered by TNT. Afterwards, there is a one hour selection show where Ernie Johnson unveils the completely random number generated matchups of each conference.
You have the camera cutting to the locker rooms where the two teams that just won the, “Entertaining as Hell Tournament,” celebrate like college kids, as they find out who they play in the first round. You have Charles, Shaq and Kenny dissecting all the best and intriguing matchups, and you have internet chaos...mad, mad chaos.
It gets better though.
This means the draft lottery would be held before the two conference tournament championships, and the playoff lottery would wait until after those two games.
Does any part of that not sound completely awesome?
Does any part of that sound like the NBA, its teams or any of its networks will take a financial hit? I don’t think so.
A completely random lottery that determines the draft order and a completely random lottery that determines the playoff matchups...in the same night. Selection Sunday wouldn’t stand a chance to compete with that.
Here is a question that may or may not be on your mind right now...
What happens when you get a first-round playoff matchup between two of the top two or three teams? Surely that cannot happen?
Sure it can. And everyone who likes anything about sports will love it. Ironically, the same thing can be said about the NBA draft lottery: Everyone loves the idea of it until their team gets shafted out of a top-three pick.
The NBA lottery is actually one of the more intriguing things in all of sports. The NBA shouldn’t do away with the draft lottery, instead, they should embrace what they have, make a few tweaks to it, and ultimately develop it into something that nearly everyone can come to love.
Wouldn’t everyone love this?