Why It's Time for the NBA to Tweak the Playoff System
Playoff reorganization has been a hot topic of debate in the NBA over the past few years, and the time has finally come for the league to step in and fix it.
It's a little ridiculous that the 33-25 Phoenix Suns would miss the playoffs in the West if they began today, while the Atlanta Hawks, who have the same record, would have home court advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
The NBA should keep the division and conference alignment intact, but the top 16 teams in terms of record should be the teams that make the playoffs.
This isn't a new idea at all, but there isn't much downside that I can see to realigning the playoff seeds.
The team with the best record would play the 16th seed, and on down the line, the same way the NCAA tournament works.
The only reason to keep the division alignment intact would be for scheduling purposes, because it's easier on teams not to have to travel as much as they would without any divisional restrictions.
The current playoff seeding is bogus, anyway.
Three of the top four playoff spots automatically go to division champions.
However, it's organized to where the two best records automatically get the top two seeds in order to ensure that they will not meet until the conference finals, should they get so far.
So, it's possible for a team with a lower seed to have home-court advantage over a division champion in a playoff series, as was the case just last season when the fifth-seeded Houston Rockets had home court over the fourth seed and Northwest Division champion Utah Jazz.
What's the point of having a division title if you're going to be playing on the road?
The divisions should only exist for travel and scheduling conveniences, and nothing else.
The 2007-08 Warriors, despite winning 48 games, were denied a playoff spot simply by virtue of the fact that they are located in the Western Conference.
On the other hand, the Atlanta Hawks, who finished 37-45, made the playoffs in the East.
Although they took the eventual-champion Celtics to seven games in the first round, no team with a 37-45 record deserves to make the playoffs over a team with a 48-34 record.
Atlanta wouldn't have even made the playoffs last season had the 16 teams with the best records qualified.
It's highly likely for the ninth place team in the West to have a better record than one or more teams that qualify for the Eastern playoffs again this season, as Phoenix has a better record than Milwaukee, Detroit, Philadelphia, and Miami, who would make it if the playoffs began today in the East.
While the West has been the dominant conference over the past decade or so, it's not going to last forever.
However, awarding playoff spots to the best 16 teams in the league is a method that would obviously still work once the balance of power begins to right itself again.
There's no excuse for the playoffs to be the way they are, and it's time for David Stern and the league to step in and fix things up.
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