The NBA Needs to Change Their Playoff Format

Jay SinghContributor IDecember 3, 2009

ORLANDO, FL - JUNE 14:  The Bill Russell MVP trophy is shown as Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers speaks to the media after the Lakers defeated the Orlando Magic in Game Five of the 2009 NBA Finals on June 14, 2009 at Amway Arena in Orlando, Florida.  The Lakers won 99-86.  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 Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

As the NBA season rolls on and the Nets continue to search for that precious first win, the Lakers, Magic, Cavaliers, and Nuggets continue to roll.

Now should we even call the Lakers, Magic, Cavs, and Nuggets teams? Or should they be called, Kobe, Dwight, LeBron, and Carmelo?

It is completely true that an NBA team needs a centerpiece to build around. The more talented the main player, the better the team ends up being over time.

It’s a foregone conclusion that these will be the teams at the end of the year competing in the final rounds of the playoffs.

Those final rounds can be said to be the most exciting time of the playoffs. Though the first round of the playoffs can be said to be the exact opposite.

The disparity in talent in the NBA really creates an elite group of teams, a mediocre group, and a group of teams vying for a 25 percent chance at the next superstar.

An NBA season cannot be made any more competitive and will always have these three groups of teams. Each group can be said to be made of about 10 teams.

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This usually makes the second round of the current format of the NBA playoffs the beginning of highly competitive basketball.

Thus the basis of creating a better system, means less teams must be let into the premier event. Though this doesn’t start by just allowing fewer teams into the second season, but instead it must start with a complete restructuring of the league and its divisions.

Currently, the 30 NBA teams are split up into six divisions in two conferences. Each division winner is guaranteed a spot in the playoffs and then the next five teams ranked by winning percentage.

This brings the total number of playoff teams to 16, and some do not even have a winning record.

The NBA needs a more selective process. This can be achieved by completely restructuring the league. First, the NBA needs to expand to 32 teams. The second step is splitting up each conference into just two divisions.

Teams would play every other NBA team twice (62 games) and each division member twice more (14 games). This would create a 76-game season, only six games fewer than the current format.

Now to the main reason for the structural change, the playoff format. In total, only eight teams would make the playoffs in the entire association.

One team from each division will get a guaranteed spot; otherwise, it is all dependent on overall win percentage.

This creates a highly competitive field of eight teams.  An even amount of teams from each conference is not required, but instead the most competitive set of teams is the goal.

Since the playoffs would only have three rounds in total, each series can be increased to best five out of nine, which requires the eventual champion to win 15 games, one less of the mark needed now.

But, every one of the rounds will contain high octane competitive matchups, that require a team to win 15 quality games.

For example, in the 2008-2009 NBA season, the playoff teams would have been:

  1. Cleveland
  2. LA Lakers
  3. Boston
  4. Orlando
  5. Denver
  6. San Antonio
  7. Portland
  8. Houston

From the 2008-2009 season this set of teams include all the teams from the respective conference finals. What this method would increase would be competitiveness from the first round.

Imagine, having teams go into the first round with matchups like, Orlando-Denver, Boston-San Antonio, LAL-Portland, and Cleveland-Houston.

These matchups are bleeding headlines and then for each team to go through a grueling nine-game series with the other is just the essence of competition.

The possible second-round matchups up the ante, leading up to the final. The final also does not necessarily have to be one team from each conference.

Another problem this fixes is when one conference is talent heavy, teams often were burnt out by the finals because of the level of conference play.

So please David Stern, go from your standard playoff format with uneventful first rounds and biased conference strength, to this much more competitive and high intensity format.

Not only will it balance the playing field for all teams, it also brings more attention and excitement to the big matchups.

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