Once again, the NBA’s archaic playoff system is going to come back to haunt the league and now the NBA’s commissioner is calling for a change.
If the NBA season ended today, two teams (Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat) on pace to win fewer than 36 games would make the playoffs. Even the Boston Celtics, who are on pace to go 31-51, are still very much alive for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
More importantly, this means that some more deserving teams and their star players won’t.
In the deeper Western Conference, both the New Orleans Pelicans and the Oklahoma City Thunder have winning records but are currently not one of the top eight teams in the conference.
This is nothing new as the Western Conference has been the deeper conference for several years now.
But this year it is especially troubling as it means the league’s newest superstar, Anthony Davis, as well as last season’s league MVP, Kevin Durant, and perennial All-Star Russell Westbrook, are on pace to miss the playoffs simply because the NBA still requires eight playoff teams from each conference.
If either the Pelicans or the Thunder move up and grab a playoff spot, it may not be any better for the NBA. One team that is a good candidate to slip is the Los Angeles Clippers who are currently sixth in the Western Conference but will have to play the next 4-6 weeks without Blake Griffin who needs elbow surgery.
But there is hope.
In a recent interview with Comcast Sportsnet Bay Area (via ProBasketballTalk.com), NBA commissioner Adam Silver called the playoffs “an area where we need to make a change.”
Silver specifically references one popular proposal that would have the winner’s of the six divisions make the playoffs followed by the ten teams with the best records regardless of which conference they play in. In other words, conferences would cease to exist in the NBA.
The league would have to figure out a way to play a more balanced schedule − teams currently only play two games each season against teams in the opposite conference − however, Silver noted that travel is much easier in the modern era of the NBA.
Silver says it is important to get the best teams in the playoffs. But more importantly for the health of the sport, the NBA needs its biggest stars on the biggest stage.
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