If the NBA had gone to a “best 16 teams” format for the NBA playoffs this season, what would have been different? Not much. Indiana/Brooklyn would be out, and both Oklahoma City and New Orleans would be in. That’s it. Boston would have still gotten the 16th and final playoff slot (and then had to fly cross country to take on Golden State). Yes, teams would have played differently at the end of the season, but the change was not as dramatic as it seemed mid-season.
Still, the imbalance of depth in the Eastern and Western conferences remains a talking point, and with that it is one of the things NBA owners will discuss at upcoming league meetings.
Owners will be presented a “range of options,” commissioner Adam Silver told Bleacher Report. But the discussion is only in its “early stages,” Silver noted, and no action is expected for a while.
“There are no quick fixes,” Silver said. “Frankly, if there were quick fixes, we would have already made them.”
Also, there are not fixes that owners easily will agree upon. You can bet owners in the East are not thinking “I’d be happy to give up a couple playoff games worth of home game revenue to make bloggers happy.” It will be contentious.
And there are a lot of grounds to be contentious about.
Proposals to seed teams one through 16, without respect to conference, raise concerns over travel, rest and scheduling, issues the league is now grappling with.
Yet it’s hard to dismiss the cringe-worthy sight of losing teams making the playoffs in one conference, while a stronger team in a superior conference is shut out—and even more so when that happens eight years in a row.
“I don’t want to overreact to any particular set of circumstances,” Silver said, urging caution.
One thing that could get tweaked is the rule that guarantees a top four seed to a division winner. This season Portland will be the four seed, but without home-court advantage in the first round, because they won the Northwest Division. Their record should have them as the six seed in the West. But to change that gets into questions of schedule balance and tradition.
Which is to say, don’t bet on any changes.
At least under Adam Silver the owners are talking about it. That is a start.