If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
That old adage does not seem to be in the vocabulary of the NBA, however, with revelations suggesting they are planning to overhaul the play-off process in time for the 2021-22 season.
According to ESPN, the NBA is deep in negotiations with the National Basketball Players Association and their broadcast partners regarding a raft of changes to the league’s format.
These would include three bombshells:
- The reseeding of all four Conference finalists
- A 30 team in-season cup
- A post-season play-in event
The idea is to actually shorten the number of matches played during the regular season from 82 to 78, principally to help franchises protect their players from over-work and injury.
If the discussions bring about a formal plan for change, that would be presented to the board in April with the possibility of a series of votes being held. The idea then would be to introduce some or all of the new concepts in time for the 75th anniversary campaign.
The major work comes in making up for the commercial losses of a shortened season, although there would be an opportunity to score a lucrative broadcasting deal for the proposed new cup competition.
How Reseeding Would Work
In a major shift away from the standard East vs West model, the four Conference finalists would be ranked one through four based on their records during the regular season.
The desire is to have the best two teams compete in the Championship series, and the seeding would maximize those chances. Generally speaking, the Western Conference is dominating the East in this modern era, and commissioner Adam Silver is concerned that TV viewers are getting turned off by one-sided Championship games.
It would certainly improve the spectacle of the finals, and would have a positive impact upon TV revenue and external items like the latest NBA Championship series betting odds, in which the sportsbooks would be able to offer a closer book across the two combatants rather the heavy favorite-underdog market that has been prevalent in recent years.
Opposition from Eastern Conference members could be forthcoming, however.
Up for the Cup
In soccer, particularly in Europe, there are cup competitions like the Champions League and the FA Cup which help to create interest beyond the normal league ladder.
The aim is to give franchises beyond those competing for Conference glory something to play for in mid-season, with a Thanksgiving-December timeframe mooted to avoid disrupting the normal campaign and running into NFL play-offs and other opponents for attention.
Teams would be split into groups, initially, the winner of each progressing to a straight knockout tournament of one match.
It would certainly open the door for teams running hot in mid-season to compete for trophies, especially those who have all but given up on reaching the Championship series.
Play-In and Play On
The subject of tanking and dead rubber matches has long haunted the NBA and other competitions with long seasons.
How do you motivate players and franchises at the end of an energy-sapping campaign when they have nothing to play for?
One solution is a play-in tournament for the teams finishing seventh through tenth in their conference. Those would take each other on – seventh vs eighth, ninth vs tenth, the winner of the latter taking on the loser of the former – to see which two franchises prevail and take their place in the extended play-offs.
These are all interesting proposals, and NBA chiefs will be working hard to get their blueprints in place prior to any board of governors’ meeting in April.