Down with divisions.
At least when it comes to seeding the NBA playoffs.
That’s what the NBA owners agreed to Tuesday, doing away with old tradition rewarding division winners with an automatic four seed or higher — teams will be seeded one through eight based solely on their record, division standing will play no part, the NBA announced.
We saw why it was needed last season.
The Portland Trail Blazers would have been the sixth seed in the Western Conference by record with their 51 wins. However, because they won a depleted Northwest Division NBA rules said they could be no lower than the four seed (although the Blazers did not have home court in the first round against fifth-seeded Memphis). The real impact was that the three-seed Clippers and the pushed down sixth-seed Spurs had to face off in the first round — a physical, emotional series that was more reminiscent of a Conference Finals that went seven games. The Clippers won the battle, but didn’t have the energy to finish off the Rockets in the second round. Two teams that some (myself included) thought were the second and third best teams in the West were out.
It generated a lot of talk around the league — why exactly were the Blazers being rewarded? Tradition? This is not baseball. NBA teams play each team in their conference four times (a couple only three times, to make the schedule work), they do not play the teams in their division more than others in their conference. Why does the old division system even exist? Well, it still exists but the rewards of winning a division are now pretty miniscule, unless you like “Division Champion” banners.
The NBA also tweaked the tiebreak system for playoff seeding. From the press release:
The Board also approved changes to tiebreak criteria for playoff seeding and home-court advantage. Head-to-head results have become the first criterion to break ties for playoff seeding and home-court advantage between two teams with identical regular-season records; the second criterion is whether a team won its division. Under the old tiebreak system, a division winner was awarded the higher seed and received home-court advantage in a series if the two teams met in the playoffs.