While the tops of the Eastern and Western Conferences are very competitive, it is clear that the Western side is much stronger from top to bottom, compared to the East. It has been evident throughout the past several seasons, that making the postseason in the East has been much easier than the West; which is a clear disadvantage.
The question then arises: Does the NBA Playoff Format need to be changed?
Personally, I believe that the NBA should disregard the format of the top 8 teams from each conference making the postseason, and instead have the top 16 overall teams, compete in the playoffs. This playoff structure will ensure the best possible games, and the two true championship teams.
The NBA All-Star game has already eradicated the Eastern and Western Conferences from the game, which has proved to make for a more competitive matchup. And as we all know, more competitive matchups always lead to more excitement from the fans.
While the change seems like an easy one, certainly a difficult one.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has reminded fans that a disregard for conferences can result in very large distances between the two teams. For example if the Portland Trail Blazers played the Miami Heat in a 7 game series, the players would have to travel across nearly the entire country.
This would result in the playoffs having to be longer due the further distances, and providing enough time for the players to recuperate after the long plane ride. This obviously leads to more separated playoff games which isn’t favored by the fans and players.
The current 7 game series format includes a home-away split of 2-2-1-1-1, meaning the consecutive games a team plays at home, which alternates. Home court advantage is a massive factor in postseason play, so that must be considered in this decision to switch formats. A potential solution is a change in the splits, but that may give the home team / higher seed a huge advantage overall.
While a postseason format that disregards conferences will result in the best possible competition, it clearly comes at the cost of significant logistical problems for the league and players. Unless the NBA and their players are willing to have a longer playoff with more separated games and heavy travel, the current format is bound to stay in place.
Photo: Bob Donnan / USA Today