THE PLAYOFF DYNAMIC
With LeBron James taking his talents to the Western Conference of the NBA, the playoff dynamic changes completely. For the first time in four years, the NBA Finals will have a new team coming from the Eastern Conference. Some might ask if the East can really keep up with the Western Conference. With James’s departure to the West, there are only a few notable teams that might be able to take even one game against the Western Conference victor next year, presumably the Golden State Warriors. Those teams being the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana Pacers and Toronto Raptors.
A playoff seeding system where the top 16 teams in the league were seeded accordingly would show the discrepancy in talent between the two conferences. If someone were to take a look at last year’s standings at the end of the regular season then there would be nine Western Conference teams who would make the playoffs under this format (Houston Rockets, Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Utah Jazz, New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs, Minnesota Timberwolves and Denver Nuggets) and only seven from the Eastern Conference (Raptors, Celtics, 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Pacers, Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks). When the Eastern Conference faced the West in the regular season they only won 213 of the matchups compared to the 235 times the West beat the East.
There is a blaring discrepancy in terms of talent between the East and West and this offseason has only made the East “weaker” than it already has been for years. The West is only continuing to get better and it is tragic that there will be solid teams missing a shot in the playoffs in the West, whereas if they would make the playoffs in the East.
WESTERN CONFERENCE TOO GOOD?
Some teams with talent could find themselves deserving a spot in the playoffs but instead having to watch from their couch due to the current playoff format.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have proven that under Coach Popovich they can make the playoffs. Even with the absence of Kawhi Leonard for a considerable amount of the 2017-18 NBA season, the Spurs were able to claw their way up to the seventh seed in the Western Conference. However, they were only one game back from the ninth seed. Improvements in teams like the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks along with adjustments with DeMar DeRozan could mean the Spurs might not make the cut.
If the format of the NBA Playoffs were based on a 1-16 seeding system the Nuggets would have found themselves in the playoffs last season. Under the current format, the Nuggets could find themselves in the same position as they were last year. The Nuggets could sit at the ninth or 10th seed with 40+ wins in the West. Depending on how the East looks next year, 40+ wins could find the Nuggets in a higher seed if they were an Eastern Conference team.
The Mavs had a good offseason thus far with drafting Luka Doncic and signing DeAndre Jordan. Depending on how well Doncic translates to the NBA and if Dennis Smith Jr. continues to improve the Mavs could find themselves fighting for an eighth seed. However, in the Western Conference, that isn’t an easy job. The Mavs could have a successful season and find themselves close but yet oh so far from the playoffs due to the current playoff format.
WHAT WOULD THIS CHANGE BRING?
Changing the NBA Playoffs format would be a great move for the NBA. It could potentially bring more revenue to the NBA. Closer matchups would be frequent as it would be the top 16 teams in the whole NBA rather than the top eight from each conference. Fans are more apt to watch closer matchups due to them being more entertaining. Closer matchups could cause higher ratings that generate more revenue for the NBA. More importantly, the change to the playoffs would bring fairness. There are teams that are deserving of playoff spots but find themselves sitting out solely because of their geography. It would be a big change to the NBA and it would take a while for fans to get adjusted to. It would result in more entertaining matchups, and even matchups that would maybe never happen under the current format. Imagine a Thunder and Warriors NBA Finals matchup.
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