NBA Imbalance

The 2016–2017 NBA season has just started. Once again, the league is filled with top-heavy teams giving the rest of the league no chance to win a championship. This makes the NBA completely unbalanced compared to the other major sports leagues. When feeling out the idea of Southbound Sports, I wrote this preview for the 2014–2015 NBA playoffs. I included some tweaks that would help balance the NBA postseason. I know it is still early in the season, but some of these ideas hold true two years later.

It is that time of year again. The NBA regular season schedule is wrapping up and the playoffs are about to begin. Fourteen of the sixteen playoff teams have been decided into the last day of the regular season. Once again, the East is an embarrassment for the league and quality teams from the West will get left out of the playoffs.

Even though the final spots have not be finalized, the Eastern Conference will allow two teams under .500 into the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Western Conference will have a team much better than the bottom two in the East left out. The Pelicans go into Wednesday’s game as part of a win and they are in. The Thunder have the same exact record as the Pelicans and need the Pelicans to lose with them winning to take the final spot in the West. Both the Pelicans and the Thunder have a potential MVP candidate on their team, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook respectively. It is a shame that a superstar of their level is going to be left out of the playoffs due to the West being a tougher conference. It is time for something to change.

Since the current format is leaving quality teams on the outside, something has to change. The current playoff format was created when travel was tough. That is not the case anymore. Teams have their own private jets now that reduce travel from across the country. Regional locations can still take precedence in the playoff seeding. Instead of having the two sides set before the playoffs, have them flexible going into the playoffs. The top sixteen teams based on record will make the playoff regardless of the division that they are in. The top sixteen teams as of today, are listed below.

  • Hawks — Southeast (60)
  • Wizards — Southeast (46)
  • Raptors — Atlantic (48)
  • Celtics — Atlantic (39)
  • Cavaliers — Central (52)
  • Bulls — Central (49)
  • Bucks — Central (41)
  • Trail Blazers — Northwest (51)
  • Thunder — Northwest (44)
  • Spurs — Southwest (55
  • Rockets — Southwest (55)
  • Grizzlies — Southwest (54)
  • Mavericks — Southwest (49)
  • Pelicans — Southwest (44)
  • Warriors — Pacific (66)
  • Clippers — Pacific (56)

This is still not a perfect system, as the Celtics make the playoffs with a record under .500. With the way the scheduling is set up now by regional pods, the entire Southwest division would make the playoffs. All of the other divisions had at least two teams make the playoffs. Now, all we have to do is set up the playoff bracket.

The bracket would then be set up based on actual team records with no regard to conference. This would create a March Madness-style bracket, where matchups would affect the outcome of the playoffs. No longer would the top-seeded Warriors get penalized for having the best record and playing in the West. They will now get matched up against the true lowest seed, the Celtics. If there is a tie for wins, the team ranked highest in the division would get the first tiebreaker. So, therefore, since the Mavericks and the Bulls have the same amount of wins, the Bulls would take that tiebreaker. This would penalize teams for not finishing higher in their division, even if the teams have the same record.