Adam Silver: NBA needs to look at taking top 16 teams for the playoffs

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Adam Silver was at the Stephen Curry show in Oakland last night, and he had killer seats. It’s one of the perks of being commissioner.

He also went on the air on Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area and took some questions from fans posted for him on Facebook, with topics ranging from his basketball experience to expanding the NBA to Europe.

However, the most interesting answer was his to the question of if the NBA should change its playoff system and, rather than take the top eight in each conference, take the Top 16 teams and seed them regardless of conference. Here was his response (that part of the interview starts at the 5:05 mark on the video above).

“Ultimately we want to see your best teams in the playoffs. And there is an unbalance and a certain unfairness. There is a proposal (from one of the broadcasters)…  where the division winners would all automatically go into the playoffs and then you’d seed the next 10 best teams. I think that’s the kind of proposal we need to look at. There are travel issues of course, but in this day in age every team of course has their own plane, travels charter. I don’t think the discussion should end there. And as I’ve said, my first year I was studying a lot of these issues and year 2 is time to take action. It’s something I’m going to look at closely with the competition committee. I do think it’s an area where we need to make a change.” 

The owners in the East might well oppose this.

If you used that formula this season there would be two changes: Charlotte and Miami would be out, replaced by New Orleans and Oklahoma City. Meaning the better, more deserving teams would get in. As it should be.

The complaints about this system starts with the travel — you could have cross-country matchups in the first round. However, as Silver noted, with every team flying in private planes this is not so significant an obstacle. Plus, the way the first round of the playoffs is spaced out there would be plenty of off days for the flights.

Another major complaint is that it could hamper regional rivalries. The idea goes that we want to see Boston play Philadelphia or New York (someday, when those teams make the playoffs again), more than we want to see Boston vs. Oklahoma City.  Or we want the Clippers and Warriors in a California showdown as opposed to Clippers vs. Boston. But does that regional rivalry really spur interest, especially outside those markets? Would better teams playing draw more viewers? I  think so.

The other major issue is that the schedule is imbalanced — teams play the other teams in their conference four times and from the other conference just twice. Is that fair to the teams in the West right now?  No. But the thing is, it doesn’t matter, the better teams still have the better records and get in (for example OKC would if it happened this season).

I’m not sure the owners will go down this path, but I think they should. The playoffs should be for the best teams, regardless of conference. We just want the best possible basketball.