The playoffs are meant to be a battle for the title. Ideally, the best teams in the league qualify. Unfortunately, the NBA does not operate that way. The NBA has the top eight teams in each conference make the playoffs.
That may seem fair, but the league is currently unbalanced. The Western Conference is far superior to the Eastern Conference. The seventh seed Dallas Mavericks would be tied for the third seed in the East. Right now, New Orleans and Oklahoma City are in a bitter fight for the eighth and final seed in the West. Both teams are 44-37, with the Pelicans ahead due to a tiebreaker. In the East, both teams would be cruising into the playoffs. Yet, they are stuck in the West. So, either way, NBA fans lose. If New Orleans qualifies, Russell Westbrook (that maniac) is out. If OKC wins, Anthony Davis and his unibrow go home. Also, why is the city of New Orleans playing in the Western Conference? Look at a map and tell me how it makes sense. I’ll wait.
Take a look at the teams that have been eliminated out west. The Phoenix Suns (39-43) and Utah Jazz (38-43) would be in the hunt for playoff spots in the East, but were long ago eliminated from contention in their own conference. Imagine how great it would be to see LeBron James and the Cavaliers deal with Rudy Gobert and Gordon Hayward. What would be more fun than having Phoenix in the playoffs? Instead, NBA fans are stuck with a “fight” for the eighth seed in the East is between the Brooklyn Nets and Indiana Pacers, who are without fail, the most boring teams in the entire NBA.
There is an easy solution. The 16 best records make the playoffs, regardless of conference. If we’re going to have an 82-game regular season, at least have it matter. It should not be a factor that where you are on a map has an effect on your playoff destiny. The best teams need to get rewarded. In this scenario, the best record, Golden State, will play the 16th best, Celtics. Some first-round highlights: Portland vs Chicago, Cleveland vs Dallas and Houston vs Washington. Doesn’t that seem fun?
It is a joke that teams with better records don’t make the playoffs. The East is going to have two under .500 teams qualify, and potentially a third that finishes exacly .500. The league should be embarrassed that there are teams with winning records miss the playoffs in favor of losing teams.
Luckily, the NBA is led by a forward thinker who shares my common sense. In February, Silver gave a press conference where he echoed a similar statement. “Ultimately we want to see your best teams in the playoffs. And there is an unbalance and a certain unfairness,” Silver said. “There are travel issues of course, but in this day in age every team of course has their own plane, travels charter. I don’t think the discussion should end there. And as I’ve said, my first year I was studying a lot of these issues and year 2 is time to take action. It’s something I’m going to look at closely with the competition committee. I do think it’s an area where we need to make a change.”
Hopefully, change is on the way.