How soon could it happen?
On a Golden State Warriors TV broadcast last week, Silver suggested a chance the playoff format should happen soon. But he clarified those remarks to USA TODAY Sports. A change in the playoff system won’t happen next season but 2016-17 is a possibility.
“There is a lot to be said for taking a fresh look at our seedings and ensuring the very best teams are competing in the playoffs,” Silver said. “I should’ve been slightly more cautious in my response (to Golden State broadcaster) only because there is a long tradition in terms of our conference system. There are some important logistic issues we need to examine in terms of travel (and schedules). It’s fair to say it’s something that requires a very strong examination.
At the risk of reading too much into this, I think this a fairly big sign the change will happen. Juxtapose that response with Silver’s on when an overseas All-Star game could occur: “We’ll look at it down the road.” Even if a top-16 format won’t be enacted next season, the fact that Silver put a specific season as a possibility means something.
There are plenty of obstacles to overcome – perhaps most overlooked and most important the fact that the NBA’s largest markets skew toward the Eastern Conference. The league might prefer the Eastern Conference keeps eight guaranteed playoff spots rather than shifting some of those toward smaller markets, even if that leaves better teams out of the postseason.
But if Silver convinces the owners a fairer competitive format would benefit the game’s long-term health, it could definitely happen.