NBA Playoffs: Why the Playoff Field Should Be Cut Down to 12 Teams

Jesse KramerCorrespondent IApril 25, 2011

PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 21: Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat and teammate LeBron James #6 (R) against the Philadelphia 76ers during the second half of game three of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at Wells Fargo Center on April 21, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

This year, my liking for the NBA has grown much more. Most likely, it is because my hometown team, the New York Knicks, have become something worthy of positive recognition, or it could just be that I needed to watch some professionals play the game right after spending a few months watching the Manhattan College Jaspers go 6-25.

In past years, I had found the NBA to be almost pointless, although I would still watch a few games every year and spend some time watching the playoffs.


Well, the main reason is that the regular season ultimately takes on very little meaning. Eighty-two games are played to eliminate less than half of the league. Each conference gets eight out of 15 teams into the playoff field. Do the math—that's over 50 percent.

In other major sports, the regular season matters much more because the playoff field is much more exclusive.

In the MLB (I really hope the MLB playoffs do not expand), eight teams make the postseason. With 30 teams in the MLB, that is only 27 percent in the playoffs.

In the NFL, 38 percent of the teams make the playoffs. Plus, that playoff has one-game playoffs instead of playing a series. This gives the NFL an edge with the excitement of the postseason.

In college basketball, 68 teams make the NCAA Tournament. That's less than 20 percent and I personally think that the NCAA Tournament is the best playoff system of all-time.

And of course, college football ends the season with only two teams playing for a national championship.

So how can the NBA regular season become more meaningful and competitive?

Allow a smaller number of teams into the NBA playoffs. Right now, there are 16 teams. Let's cut it down to 12 and see how it looks.

Most likely, a 12-team would give the top two seeds from each conference byes to the conference semifinals and the bottom four seeds in each conference would still play a first round. To shorten the days that the playoffs take up, these first round series could be cut down to best-of-five series.

This would make the regular season matter more, plus the NBA would still keep the majority of its playoff excitement. The playoffs would still have four rounds, but there would be less teams.

However, it is possible that the NBA would not want to give any teams byes. In that case, the playoffs could even be cut down to eight teams (the first round would become the conference semifinals).

However, this could be too exclusive. To me, 12 teams seems to be a good number.

On another note, there is one other problem that I have with the NBA playoffs—they drag on for a little too long. Just the thought that the postseason lasts two months seems somewhat ridiculous.

Theoretically, a team could play 28 postseason games, which is more than another third of a regular season. 

Obviously, if the number of teams is reduced, then the amount of time that the playoffs take up would most likely shrink. However, there is one other simple way to cut it down a small bit.

Make the first round a best-of-five series. It would save at least half of a week and possibly more. It wouldn't make a huge difference, but it would be a start.