Balancing the NBA Playoffs
14 Apr 2015
Last week, ESPN broadcaster Jeff Van Gundy decided to go on a rant during a live broadcast about the current playoff format. It’s no secret the Western Conference is the crème de la crème of the NBA. Do not even start with me on trying to say, “Look who won the NBA title two out of the last three years?” The Heat and their super team was fun to watch, but the truth of the matter is, the Eastern Conference had even less balance then. It was literally whichever team made it through the West minefield would play the Heat in the Finals. Not fun for the average fan, but I digress. Van Gundy makes some valid points that the bottom tier of the Eastern Conference is pretty pathetic record wise. To put in perspective, the Phoenix Suns went 49-33 and missed the playoffs last year. Jeff’s idea is to have the top 16 teams make the playoffs no matter which conference they come from. It would essentially mean the NBA would get rid of the conferences. Mike Breen and Mark Jackson joined Van Gundy on the broadcast and both were against the idea. Jackson made a good point that no other league has that structure and there are dominant conferences in other sports as well. It is frustrating to be a fan of one of the Western Conference bubble teams because the 9-11 clubs would be the 6-8 seeds in the East right now. Jeff always thinks outside the box but they’re obvious reasons why this idea will never come to fruition.
As Mike Breen pointed out, if you seeded the top 16 teams, Golden State, the 1 seed, would have to travel to Milwaukee (16th seed) where as Washington as the 7th seed would only have to travel to Chicago. I know, how can we bring up travel when these guys fly private and avoid airport security? But, that is a clear disadvantage for the Warriors. If we kept playing this out, Golden State could end up playing Toronto in the 2nd round. That’s a lot of travel in two or three weeks.
Jackson brought up a great point during the conversation in that every decade or so, the balance of power shifts in leagues. After looking extensively back through the NBA years, the last dominant time for the East was from 1989-1998 where the Bulls and Pistons won 8 of the 10 championships. I know that’s over two decades ago but Jackson is right. Once the big three in San Antonio retire and maybe LaMarcus Aldridge comes east, things will balance out.
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