The NBA Sounds Serious About Making Drastic Changes To Playoff Format

Bryan Brandom
(Photo: Getty Images)

NBA commissioner Adam Silver, thankfully, isn’t one to let silly things like tradition stand in the way of his improving the league. Which is why rivalries in each conference aren’t keeping him from drastically overhauling the league’s playoff format for the sake of both fairness and excitement.

During All-Star Weekend, Silver floated the idea of doing away with the Eastern Conference playoffs and the Western Conference playoffs, instead seeding the best 16 teams in the league in order.

“When we get to the playoffs should we be taking either the best 16 teams, or even if we go eight from the West, eight from the East, seeding one through 16 going into the playoffs? That is something that has gotten serious attention, not just recently but over the last few years at the league office,” Silver said before the NBA dunk contest.

Here’s what the 2018 playoffs would look like with the top 16 teams if the season were to end today.

Pretty cool, right?

By increasing the disparity between the top and bottom of the seeding, this playoff format lends itself to upsets and matchups we never thought we’d see.

But for issues, look no further than the No. 4-vs.-No. 13 matchup—two teams on opposite sides of the country. A nightmare travel matchup or two or three could crop up in every round, rather than just once in the NBA Finals.

“I think, as I’ve said in the past, the obstacle is travel, and it’s not tradition, in my mind, at least,” Silver added. “It’s that, as we’ve added an extra week to the regular season, as we’ve tried to reduce the number of back-to-backs, that we are concerned about teams crisscrossing the country in the first round, for example. We are just concerned about the overall travel we would have in the top 16 teams.”

From a logistics standpoint, the easiest solution to the travel issue might be to lop off a few games from the regular season, extending the playoffs to allow for more travel and rest.

But until the league can think of a way to account for money revenue lost by hosting fewer regular season games, don’t count on that happening, as the teams, at the end of the day, hold the power when it comes to changing the playoff format.