Fixing the NBA Playoffs: Redeux

Word around the campfire suggests that the NBA is looking into ideas of how to tweak their playoffs, as early as this season when play resumes July 31st. Could the solution be this simple?

I wrote a few seasons ago about how the first round of the NBA Playoffs didn’t matter. That ultimately, every champion always comes down to a team seeded 1-4, from each conference:

Just look at the history of the Finals and who has actually gotten to compete for a championship (I will spare you all of the repeat Warriors vs. Cavaliers series, which have all been #1 vs. #1 or #2):

2014 – #1 San Antonio Spurs vs. #1 Miami Heat

2013 – #2 San Antonio Spurs vs. #1 Miami Heat

2012 – #2 Oklahoma City Thunder vs. #2 Miami Heat

2011 – #3 Dallas Mavericks vs. #2 Miami Heat

2010 – #1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #4 Boston Celtics

2009 – #1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #3 Orlando Magic

2008 – #1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #1 Boston Celtics

2007 – #3 San Antonio Spurs vs. #2 Cleveland Cavaliers

2006 – #4 Dallas Mavericks vs. #2 Miami Heat

2005 – #2 San Antonio Spurs vs. #2 Detroit Pistons

2004 – #2 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #3 Detroit Pistons

I then hastily proposed that the league should only allow four teams to compete in the NBA Playoffs. I had the right idea, but it was a bad decision. In my defense, I was so sick of watching the first round of the 2018 Playoffs, I’m surprised I didn’t propose something more drastic.

To their credit, the NBA at least recognizes that their playoff format is broken, because in November, they announced that they are toying with ways to fix it. Of the proposed “sweeping, dramatic changes to the league calendar”, the league will entertain ideas that include:

  1. A reseeding of the four conference finalists
  2. A 30-team in-season tournament
  3. A post-season play-in

Since the NBA abruptly ended their season this past March, The Ringers’ own Kevin O’Connor has recently written why he believes a new proposed idea involving a World Cup style Group Selection could work in place of the current playoff structure.

Now, let me explain to you why each idea is stupid:

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Professional Basketball is Dead

Who killed it? And who – or what – is slowly rising from out of its grave?

“My name is Dan. I love basketball, probably at an unhealthy level”

This is the introduction to my About Cleaning Up The Glass page. And, although I can convince myself that this statement holds true for the sport in general, I no longer can say with a straight face that this accurately represents my love for the way it’s played at the professional level. Which is where my love for the game had originally blossomed, and, therefore, where the majority of my knowledge lies.

What happened?

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Did #RefWatchParty Actually Work?

We all had our expectations of how this experiment was going to shake out, but did anyone correctly predict the result?

We all thought it was a joke. Even I had my reservations about it when I heard the news.

But the NBA did the unthinkable. Following heavy criticism after the first two games of this year’s Finals, the league responded by having @OfficialNBARefs, the Twitter handle representing professional basketball’s referees, live tweeting during Game 3 last night. With the internet, who is always both crazy and angry about everything.

It sounded like a terrible idea from the word “go”. The first two games were so bad that, forget the internet, hoop heads everywhere would have ripped the refs a new one in-person. Upon hearing of the news, my mind jumped to some of the terrible calls from the previous games, and how the referees’ Twitter would handle rabid, spiteful fans demanding explanations for some of the worst officiating we have ever seen (or at least in recent memory). How could the referees Twitter attempting to explain away a call that pissed off the entire internet help anything?

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The Biggest Problem Facing the NBA Right Now

The Warriors are in the Finals again, looking to win their third championship in four straight tries. That’s a problem, but the reason may not be what you think.

Many people right now are complaining that the NBA Finals is always the Golden State Warriors vs. LeBron. It’s been this way for four seasons in a row. LeBron himself has reached eight straight Finals appearances. The easy answer is to keep teams like the Golden State Warriors from forming; however, if you’ve paid any attention to the NBA in the last decade, the Dubs are not the first instance of a Super Team.

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Fixing the NBA Playoffs

No, not the Tim Donaghy way… What do all three players in this “Finals” image have in common? All were able to compete for the NBA Championship this season. They also shared a 0% chance of winning it.

The first round of the NBA playoffs completed this past weekend. We had some surprises along the way, with sixth seeded New Orleans sweeping the number three seed in Portland, as well as seventh seeded Milwaukee nearly upsetting Boston. Cleveland and Indiana also went to a crucial Game 7, and these three series have been a joy to watch.

It reminds me of other great first round moments, like in 1994, when the eighth seed Denver Nuggets upset the Seattle Supersonics, becoming the first team to do so in NBA Playoff history. Or how about 2007, when the eighth seed Golden State Warriors stunned the 67-15 Dallas Mavericks, becoming the first eighth seed to do so in a seven game series? Boston vs. Chicago in 2009 was also great, setting records for most games requiring overtime (4) and periods played (7). We could even go back to 1989, as Michael Jordan hung in the air longer than his defender Craig Ehlo of the Cleveland Cavaliers, to hit the game and series clinching buzzer beater. All great and unforgettable moments.

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