Solving the NBA's Playoff Credibility Gap

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Solving the NBA's Playoff Credibility Gap
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

I’m boycotting the NBA playoffs, and not just because a Lakers-Cavaliers finals is as predictable as the continued decline of Isiah Thomas’ mental stability.

I simply have no interest in watching inferior teams—rewarded with a postseason berth for no other reason than geography—demonstrate their inferior brand of ball.

Besides, I have much more important matters to attend to—trying to get pencils to stick into acoustic-ceiling tiles, thoroughly reading my junk mail, and clipping my pooch’s nails, to name a few.

In the interest of full disclosure, that I’m a fan of the Golden State Warriors does factor into my negative stance. Clearly, Don Nelson’s 2008-'09 team had no business extending the recently concluded 82-game campaign.

But I’m still a bit raw over the fact that last year’s 48-win club failed to qualify for the playoffs, while five Eastern Conference teams with less wins were assigned a coveted postseason berth.

I was reminded of the insult again this week as an entertaining Phoenix team—one that survived the offseason departure of coach Mike D’Antoni, the midseason firing of replacement Terry Porter, and the season-ending injury to superstar Amare Stoudemire—was forced to head off into a desert sunset despite its 46-36 record while Miami (43-39), Chicago (41-41), Philadelphia (41-41), and Detroit (39-43) began breaking down film and booking hotel rooms.

As residents of the Eastern Conference, the Suns would have earned the five-seed. This marked the fourth consecutive year that a team from the East with a losing record has made the playoffs.

What in the name of James Naismith and Chuck Taylor is going on?

Instead of Shaquille O’Neal, Steve Nash, Grant Hill, and Jason Richardson, the NBA is serving up an Allen Iverson-less Pistons, a 76ers squad that lost six of its last seven regular-season games, and a marginally watchable (read: Dwyane Wade) Miami Heat team.

To add to the insult, the Suns beat Detroit in both meetings this year—by 18 points at home and 10 on the road—and split with Philly (admittedly, they went 0-4 against Chicago and Miami).

Nevertheless, the Suns closed with nine straight wins at home, going 6-2 overall in April.

Now that the smoke has cleared from my extended rant, I do have a solution, simple, logical, and unbiased. It’s not as extreme as the one that NBA legend Reggie Miller is advocating (placing the top 16 teams in the playoffs regardless of conference.)

Instead, to eliminate Commissioner David Stern’s obvious credibility gap, why not guarantee each conference’s top seven teams a playoff spot and award the last two berths to the teams with the best records?

The networks will still get what they want in regional balance and ratings, but most importantly, the fans will get what they deserve which is a truly competitive bracket.

It’s a slam dunk, an uncontested layup, the kind of shot that must be converted.

Is that too much to ask?

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