NBA Lockout: Ideas That Could Help Competitively and Financially

Thomas GaliciaContributor IIOctober 22, 2011

NBA Lockout: Ideas That Could Help Competitively and Financially

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    I'm trying to avoid any NBA lockout news. 

    Don't get me wrong, I still read about it and keep up on it religiously, but see, here's my problem. 

    Right now, when I'm not writing about the NFL and my Miami Dolphins' Suck For Luck campaign, I should be writing an NBA 2012 season preview. 

    I should be talking about the defending champion Dallas Mavericks. I should be talking about my Miami Heat. I should be talking about how I see the two teams squaring off in the NBA Finals in a rematch of next year with Miami getting the upper hand, which would be my prediction. 

    I should be discussing why I think the Cavs will surprise everybody and grab the eighth seed in the East, how the Celtics will wind up more motivated than ever and have the best record in the NBA (before falling to Miami in the Eastern Conference finals), how Kobe will come back healthier than last season and hungrier than he already is, win the MVP and lead the Lakers to the best record in the West (before falling to Dallas in the Western Conference finals) and how I honest to God believe that this season, the Spurs will actually miss the postseason due to the overall strength of the Western Conference. 

    These are all predictions I should be making right now in a slideshow, but I can't, because the greedy owners and the greedy players are fighting over who's the greediest. They're fighting over a pie that let's face it, who knows how big or small it will wind up being. 

    I can tell you this much, due to their fighting, they've shrunk the pie they are fighting over. It's like watching two roommates fight over a pizza, however they're fighting in the den while the pizza is not only getting cold in the kitchen, but one of their girlfriends just took a couple of slices (and also helped themselves to their beers as well).

    But I haven't written about the lockout due to the fact that I refuse to. The entire thing as a basketball fan just makes me upset, as it should fans of any team. Plus, I really don't like to complain.

    Especially when I can offer up a solution.

    It all boils down to money and who gets what share. But the more you can grow, the more money there is to share, hence, everybody wins, even the fans. 

    So how do you do that? 

    By implementing a radical change to the NBA. I'm not talking about salary caps and luxury taxes, which as it stands I don't see anything wrong with (if San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Utah can put good teams on the court the way they have shown, any team in the NBA can do that, I really don't think this is like baseball with big market vs. small market). 

    I'm talking about divisional realignment and a change to the playoff system. 

    Take a look at what I mean. 

Abolish the Conferences

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    In Major League Baseball, to have a National League and American League makes sense. Both leagues have different rules and play a different brand and style of baseball, so crowning a different champion from either league to compete in the World Series makes sense to this day. 

    On top of that, both leagues are divided by geography in the same way: East, Central and West. 

    With the NFL, there are no stylistic differences between the conferences, however each one crowns their champion, who represents them in the Super Bowl. They also each have their own trophies: The George Halas Trophy in the NFC and the Lamar Hunt Trophy in the AFC. 

    It is also a relic of the days prior to the NFL-AFL merger, as well as two conferences divided by geography in the same way: North, South, East and West. 

    But the NBA is only divided by conferences based solely on geography. 

    This isn't a bad thing, however, it leads to playoff series where its painfully obvious that the two best teams in the league are competing against each other, only instead of competing in the Finals, they're competing in the conference semis, or worse, the conference finals. 

    Just look at the West from 2000-2003. Please tell me if you honestly thought during that time span that the Eastern Conference representative (Indiana, Philadelphia, New Jersey) had a shot against the Western Conference representatives (Los Angeles Lakers from 2000-2002, San Antonio 2003)?

    Then there's this question: why even have conference championship trophies? 

    It's not like you won a geographically-balanced league in the NBA. It only means you're the best team east or west of the Mississippi. Why bother with the trophy?

    I can tell you as a Heat fan, if the Heat have any pride what-so-ever, they'll take that 2011 Eastern Conference Trophy and fling it into Biscayne Bay whenever the 2011-2012 season starts. 

    Hopefully, there will be no "2011 Eastern Conference champions" banner to be raised. I refuse to buy any merchandise celebrating the fact that you're almost there, so why should they raise a banner commemorating a failure? Why celebrate second place?

    Blow up tradition and blow up the conferences. That's my solution. 

    But then how would one go about creating a playoff system that would be fair, that would ensure that the two best teams would meet in the NBA Finals every season? 

    How would the scheduling go?

    Keep reading. 

A New No Conference, 4 Division Format

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    Here's an idea that's more geographically friendly and sets the ultimate groundwork for the new playoff format I'll debut in a few slides. 

    No conferences, four divisions. 

    I've split up the NBA into four divisions based off geography. 

    Two of the divisions contain seven teams, two contain eight. The eight-team divisions also include subdivisions, which aren't used in regards to standings, but rather in regards to scheduling. 

    The scheduling format will place importance on geographical divisional rivalries yet at the same time allow each NBA team to visit a city at least once. Here's the way the schedule would break down:

    Teams within divisions containing eight teams will play 44 out of division games, meaning they'll play each non-division foe twice in a home and home series. 

    The remaining 38 games will be divisional games. Here's where it gets split up into subdivisions. 

    Against the four divisional opponents in the opposite subdivision, a team in an eight-team division will face each time five times: three of the games on the road, two of those games at home or two games on the road, three games at home. This will alternate every year; the teams which they faced three times at home in one year will face them three times on the road the following year and vice-versa. 

    As for the three remaining teams in their subdivision, they will face each of those teams six times: three at home, three on the road. 

    The 44 non-divisional games plus the 38 divisional games equals out to 82 games. 

    As for teams in seven-team divisions, they will play 46 non-division games, which is twice a year against non-divisional teams in a home and home series. Then their remaining 36 games will come against divisional foes, facing each one six times. 

    The 46 non-divisional games plus the 36 divisional games equals out to 82 games. 

    Either way, the NBA won't have to add or subtract games from the schedule. Under this format, you will see divisional rivalries become more intense, while non-division games become even bigger special events. 

    But here's the question I know you are asking: who's in what division?

    Next slide please, where I will present to you the names and teams of each division, with teams listed in the order they would've finished in last season based off the record had the teams been in these divisions. 

Bill Russell Division

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    The Bill Russell division will be a seven-team division comprised of teams that primarily play along the Eastern seaboard. It consists of each team in the current Atlantic Division along with two teams from the Southeastern Division. 

    1. Boston Celtics (56-26)
    2. New York Knicks (42-40)
    3. Philadelphia 76ers (41-41)
    4. Charlotte Bobcats (34-48)
    5. New Jersey (Brooklyn) Nets (24-58)
    6. Washington Wizards (23-59)
    7. Toronto Raptors (22-60)

Michael Jordan Division

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    Why shouldn't Michael Jordan have a division named after him? Wouldn't that be sweet?

    Yes, the Bulls are in the Michael Jordan Division—a seven-team division comprised of teams from the Midwest. The teams include every member of the NBA's current Central Division, along with two teams in the NBA's Northwestern Division. 

    1. Chicago Bulls (62-20)
    2. Oklahoma City Thunder (55-27)
    3. Indiana Pacers (37-45)
    4. Milwaukee Bucks (35-47)
    5. Detroit Pistons (30-52)
    6. Cleveland Cavaliers (19-63)
    7. Minnesota Timberwolves (17-65)

Wilt Chamberlain Division

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    This division was the hardest one to name. I didn't want to go with Jerry West despite the fact that it would not only honor one of the greatest guards of all time, but also be a geographically appropriate division based off of the name. That's because he already has the logo modeled after him. 

    On top of that, if you hate the Lakers, you'll hate this division. The good news though: things are looking up for the Clippers and Warriors anyways, and the Lakers will now have to deal with the Blazers and the Nuggets, who along with the Jazz are from the Northwestern Division. Every other team in this division was a member of the Pacific Division. 

    1. Los Angeles Lakers (57-25)
    2. Denver Nuggets (50-32)
    3. Portland Trail Blazers (48-34)
    4. Phoenix Suns (40-42)
    5. Utah Jazz (39-43)
    6. Golden State Warriors (36-46)
    7. Los Angeles Clippers (32-50)
    8. Sacramento Kings (24-58)

    For scheduling purposes, this division will be split up into two subdivisions: The California Subdivision will be home to the Lakers, Warriors, Kings and Clippers. The Pacific Subdivision will be home to the Nuggets, Blazers, Jazz and Suns.

    Again, this is for scheduling purposes only and will have no bearing on the standings, as each team plays the teams in their subdivisions six times each, while playing the teams outside of their subdivisions five times each. 

Shaquille O'Neal Division

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    OK, I know there's quite a few basketball players I could name what could be the NBA's best division after. 

    But I figured if there's anyone who would love to see a division named after him, it would be Shaq. 

    Plus how cool would it sound to say: "Dallas is currently three games ahead of Miami in the Shaq Division?" 

    Or to hear on TNT: "So Shaq, who do you see winning the Shaq?"

    Plus you have two of Shaq's former teams in the division, which as it stands based off of last year's records, would be the toughest division in the NBA. 

    In other words, it would be like the SEC is to college football. 

    Oh and Heat Haters, I'm sure will have a blast seeing the Heat in this division, which contains three teams from the current Southeastern division to go along with the entire Southwestern division.  

    1. San Antonio Spurs (61-21)
    2. Miami Heat (58-24)
    3. Dallas Mavericks (57-25)
    4. Orlando Magic (52-30)
    5. New Orleans Hornets (46-36)
    6. Memphis Grizzlies (46-36)
    7. Atlanta Hawks (44-38)
    8. Houston Rockets (43-39)

    This division would be split up into two sub-divisions: The Southeastern Subdivision will feature the Heat, Magic, Hawks and Grizzlies, while the Southwestern Subdivision will feature the Mavs, Spurs, Hornets and Rockets. 

    Again, the sub-divisions are used for scheduling only, as you play the teams in your sub-division six times while playing the other division teams five. The standings are simply who has the best record in the division. 

Playoff Format: The Divisional Playoffs

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    So now that we have our teams split up into their four divisions, allow me to introduce the new playoff format. 

    The top four teams in eight-team divisions along with the top three teams in seven-team divisions will get a bye week. 

    Then after that, to borrow from Bill Simmons, we'll have what he calls the "Entertaining As Hell Tournament" with the final 16 teams. 

    The tournament will be seeded solely on record, and will take place at two neutral sites in cities without NBA basketball (Seattle and Pittsburgh would be my top two American choices). 

    We could also use this tournament to expand the NBA oversees and hold it in London, Paris or any other European city. 

    The two remaining teams left at the end of this single elimination tournament will go on to the playoffs, while the teams with the top 14 records will sit comfortably at home with a bye week in order to allow the tournament to play out. 

    This play in tournament will also stop teams from tanking for lottery purposes. Now every team has a shot at getting into the playoffs, which would encourage teams and their stars to play hard down the stretch. 

    After that, the playoffs will commence with each match up being based on record and nothing more. The teams with the best records in the playoffs will play the teams with the worst records regardless of division affiliation to start the first round of the playoffs. 

    This will go on until...

NBA Quarterfinals

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    Now that we are down to eight, we move into the NBA quarterfinals. 

    In the NBA quarterfinals, each team is seeded based off the regular-season record. The team with the best remaining record gets the No. 1 seed, while the remaining team with the worst regular season record gets the No. 8 seed. 

    Once again, division standings don't matter. You could face a team in any division, once you get to the NBA Quarterfinals. Each series will be a best-of-seven. 

NBA Semifinals

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    Same format as before. The four remaining teams are seeded based off record and record alone. The two teams with the best records get home-court advantage. 

    Of course like every series beforehand, this will consist of two best-of-seven series. 

NBA Finals

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    Now we've reached the NBA Finals. 

    No longer are the two representatives confined from being in the East and the West. Instead you have the two best teams in the NBA competing against one another regardless of their division. 

    Two teams from the same division? Very possible. 

    And in the end, you'll see an exciting finals matchup that will feel more like it was earned and not based off of the luck of playing either east or west of the Mississippi when either conference is in a down year. 

    Of course, it will be a best-of-seven. Each playoff series is. 

    Only this time, there's no reason that any fans will come away feeling like the true Finals matchup came in an earlier round like we had in seasons that came before. 

So How Does This Help the League Competitively and Financially?

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    Let's start with what's really important to the owners and players.

    What did you really think I'd say competitively would be really important to the owners and players? Come on, you know there are some owners *cough*Sterling!*cough* that don't care how competitive their teams are as well as they're financially sound. 

    Financially, you'll have less travel expenses. Anywhere from 43 to 46 percent of a team's games are within their divisions, which would be grouped off regionally.

    That's a decent amount of money each team will be saving.

    Then there's both the competitive and financial sides mixed together: every team has a better chance.

    Instead of having to be in the top eight of a 15-team conference, the goal is now to be in the top four of an eight (or seven)-team division.

    Now along with the fact that most of your games are within your division, you will have a better time scouting the division, leading to more competitive games against each divisional foe.

    Then once you get into the postseason, that's where anything can happen.

    Of course, familiarity breeds contempt, which again swings back further to the financial side.

    The NBA would no longer be married to the star system as much as in the past. Sure, the best players will get endorsement deals and sell the league, but it won't be as big of a component as before.

    Instead, selling these regional rivalries will be the key, bringing in more of a collegiate atmosphere to the pro game.

    On the other side of it, out of division games become more special since it will be that team's only visit to a particular market for that season.

    Unless they meet in the playoffs.

    This will lead to better and more competitive series come playoff time, and it will be very possible that two teams who've already met five or six times in the regular season will be ready to tip it off possibly seven more times against each other in the playoffs, regardless of the round.

    Even in the NBA Finals, which will be a matchup between the two best remaining teams left, and no longer just a matchup between an East Coast team and West Coast team.

    In the end, the NBA will be better for it with this system as opposed to the new one.

    So why not give it a try? Why not think outside the box?

    Better yet, before you even begin to think about something like this, get on the court first.

    No seriously, we're tired of your greed. Get on the court, provide us fans who are willing to pay their hard-earned money to see you guys play the entertainment we choose to play for.

    Stop fighting over how much of the pie each side gets, and instead, grow the pie so that everyone gets more.

    Implementing this realignment and new playoff system will do just that.

    Feel free to leave a comment and give me some feedback on how you feel about this system. Also feel free to follow me on Twitter, @thomasgalicia.

    Oh, and as for All-Star weekend, which I know I missed. I'll admit, the reason for that is because I couldn't really figure out how to do the All-Star game under this system. If you have any ideas for it, leave it in a comment.

    Thanks for reading, and to the NBA's Owners and Players: End the lockout!