NBA realignment and new playoff system


A map of teams in the NBA. (Photo credit to imgur.com)
A map of teams in the NBA. (Photo credit to imgur.com)

For many years, I have wondered why the NBA has not realigned the Western and Eastern Conferences, and come up with a new playoff system. Here is my solution to that. As a fan of the Minnesota Timberwolves, they are the team that, by far, does the most traveling of any other team in the league. They are in a conference that includes travels to Denver, Portland, Utah, all over California and Texas, Oklahoma City, Memphis, and New Orleans. All of those trips take place twice a year. The Timberwolves travel 30,000 miles more per year than the second closest team, which happens to be Portland. I think the NBA needs to do away with divisions within conferences and just focus on conferences. With 30 teams in the league, why not create three conferences and have the top 16 records make the playoffs. In the newly formatted Wild West, it would be: Portland, Golden State, Sacramento, Los Angeles (Lakers and Clippers) Phoenix, Utah, Denver, Oklahoma City, and San Antonio. In the Heartland Conference, it would be: Minnesota, Milwaukee, Chicago, Cleveland, Memphis, Houston, Dallas, New Orleans, Indiana, and Detroit. In the Coastal Conference, it would be the remaining teams: New York, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Boston, Charlotte, Atlanta, Orlando, Miami, Toronto, and Washington. The schedule would be reduced from 82 games to 76 games. The new schedule would include one trip to each team outside of the traveling team’s conference and that team would also receive one trip from each team outside its conference for a total of 40 games. Each team would play teams within its own conference four times for a total of 36 games, bringing the total number of games to 76. The top 16 teams will make the playoffs. Top eight records will receive “delayed” home-court advantage. What do I mean by “delayed?” The higher seed will have the first game at home. Then, it will travel for the second game and travel back home for game three, and on the road for game four. Teams would continue this pattern if it was to go longer than four games. Should the series go more than four games and the higher seeded team is trailing in the series, the higher seed would get game five, six, and seven at home. The lower seed may not like that, but it puts more of an emphasis on winning games in the regular season to get that type of advantage. Also, I don’t think higher seeded teams would purposely try to dig themselves a hole in the first four games. However, if a series continues to go back and forth, and is tied 3-3, the seventh game, like made obvious in the paragraph above, would be played at the higher seed. By cutting out six regular season games, that makes the NBA regular season about two weeks shorter. The regular season would be done at the beginning of April. The playoff system does need to be revitalized and I think the NBA could shake up the conferences, too. The conference realignment wouldn’t affect the West Coast, but the East Coast and Midwest could see a spike in television ratings and viewers. It’s something to think about, though.

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4 thoughts on “NBA realignment and new playoff system

  1. You still hold the problem of having conferences with uneven scheduling. Also, you split up the Texas teams, which is not good for the sport in general.

    My idea is to scrap conferences altogether. Play every team at home and away (58 games). Using the previous season’s standings, split the league into 3 tiers of 10 teams. Used for scheduling, you play the teams within your tier an extra home and away game (bringing the total to 76 games). To protect rivalries, let each team play 3 rivals twice more to reach the current 82-game total. For Minnesota, the rivals would be Milwaukee, Chicago, and Oklahoma City, where you’d be guaranteed to play these teams at least 4 times each, with a max of 6 times each.

    Since each team will only play 6 games that their tier peers won’t, the schedule becomes more even. The whole point of using tiers, though, is to help the perennial bottom feeders get out of the basement, which increases fan interest.

    Upon second look, we have the same basic idea, just tweaked. My “scheduling tiers” and your “conferences” are essentially divisions that provide the same number of games (before my rivalry games get added in) in and outside of the division. However, splitting the Mavs and Spurs is just not feasible, while the owners love those 3 extra home games. They both address the uneven travel, though mine doesn’t always provide Minnesota with as much relief as yours.

    http://rtxc1sports.blogspot.com/2014/03/nba-fixing-scheduling-conference-and.html

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    1. Also, that was a fun read.

      I’m a fan of the 1-1-1-1-1-1-1 playoff setup, but there’s just too much travel involved in most cases. Don’t forget, the NBA is wanting to make the season extend further into the summer due to its superior popularity over MLB.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. rtxc1 – Thank you for the comment and thoughts. In regards to you liking the 1-1-1-1-1-1-1 playoff setup, I agree that it would be a lot of travel. However, if the season is done at the beginning of April, that gives the NBA two more weeks of playoffs “to play with.” Especially in the first round, teams would play every two days, unless it’s like New York vs. Brooklyn in the first round. Those matches could be played every other day because those teams could walk to each other’s arena. Now, if it was Sacramento and Minnesota, those teams could play and have two days off, and still get three games in, in one week. I really believe the NBA needs to adjust the playoff system for sure, and I would like to see two conferences and no divisions.

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  2. I came up with and tested a new improved NBA realignment that is fair and balanced and keeps East/West playoff brackets. It works by having not 2, 4, or 6 divisions, but 5 odd number divisions of 6 teams each:

    WESTERN CONFERENCE: (12 West teams)
    Pacific Division:
    Portland, Sacramento, Golden State, LA Lakers, LA Clippers, Utah

    Southwest Division:
    Denver, Phoenix, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, Oklahoma City

    SPLIT CONFERENCE: (4 Flex teams (FLEX) & 2 East teams (E))
    Central Division:
    Minnesota (FLEX), Milwaukee (FLEX), Chicago (FLEX), Indiana (FLEX), Cleveland (E), Detroit (E)

    EASTERN CONFERENCE: (10 East teams (E) & 2 Flex teams (FLEX))
    Atlantic Division:
    Toronto (E), Boston (E), New York (E), Brooklyn (E), Philadelphia (E), Washington (E)

    Southeast Division:
    Charlotte (E), Atlanta (E), Memphis (FLEX), New Orleans (FLEX), Orlando (E), Miami (E)

    West teams play more West teams, East teams (E) play more East teams (E), and Flex teams (FLEX) play a balanced schedule of West, East, & FLEX teams. The key to make things work fair and balanced is to use the playoff-qualifying FLEX teams by moving them to the weaker playoff bracket as needed. In this way, the weaker bracket will have much fewer teams qualifying with losing records, and at the same time the stronger bracket will have much fewer teams having winning records not qualify for the playoffs. The 6 FLEX teams are all centrally located and will play a balanced schedule to legitimize their placement into either the West or East playoff brackets as needed. It really works well!

    12 West teams play 22 games own div (4.4 games each), 21 games w/ sister div (3.5 games each), 15 games with 6 FLEX teams (2.5 games each), 24 games w/ 12 East teams (E) (2 games each).

    6 East Atlantic div teams (E) play 22 games own div (4.4 games each), 21 games 6 other East teams (E) outside div (3.5 games each), 15 games with 6 FLEX teams (2.5 games each), 24 games w/ 12 West teams (2 games each).

    4 East teams (E) in Southeast div. play 20 games own div (4 games each), 21 games w/ 6 East teams (E) in Atlantic div (3.5 games each), 6 games w/ 2 East teams (E) in Central div (3 games each), 11 games w/ 4 Flex teams (FLEX) from Central div (2.75 games each), 24 games w/ 12 West teams (2 games each).

    2 Flex teams (FLEX) in Southeast div. play 20 games own div (4 games each), 15 games w/ 6 East teams (E) in Atlantic div (2.5 games each), 5 games w/ 2 East teams (E) in Central div (2.5 games each), 12 games w/ 4 Flex teams (FLEX) from Central div (3 games each), 30 games w/ 12 West teams (2.5 games each).

    2 East teams (E) in Central div. play 20 games own div (4 games each), 21 games w/ 6 East teams (E) in Atlantic div (3.5 games each), 12 games w/ 4 East teams (E) in Southeast div (3 games each), 5 games w/ 2 Flex teams (FLEX) from Southeast div (2.5 games each), 24 games w/ 12 West teams (2 games each).

    4 Flex teams (FLEX) in Central div. play 20 games own div (4 games each), 15 games w/ 6 East teams (E) in Atlantic div (2.5 games each), 11 games w/ 4 East teams (E) in Southeast div (2.75 games each), 6 games w/ 2 Flex teams (FLEX) from Southeast div (3 games each), 30 games w/ 12 West teams (2.5 games each).

    Playoff Brackets for my proposed realignment:

    Maintain current 16-team East/West playoff bracket system format, with the following modifications:

    Step 1 – Identify the top 16 teams in the League, but include each division winner.
    Step 2 – Adjust the 16-team list as needed to limit no more than 8 teams max qualifying from my 12-team Western Conference and limit no more than 8 teams max qualifying from my 12 East teams (E). Any or all of my 6 Flex teams (FLEX) teams may qualify without restrictions.
    Step 3 – Indiana (FLEX) is a special case because it is in the Eastern Time Zone. Only as a last resort, or if there are no other FLEX teams available, place Indiana in the West bracket only when such a need arises.
    Step 4 – If any Flex teams (FLEX) qualify, place them as needed into the weaker East or West bracket to minimize the amount of teams w/ losing records entering the playoffs, while minimizing the amount of teams w/ winning records missing the playoffs. Sometimes some of the FLEX teams may need to be placed into each bracket and if that happens, place the strongest FLEX teams into the weaker bracket while placing the weakest FLEX teams into the stronger bracket – the goal is to get the 2 brackets to get as near to each other in total strength as possible.

    I tested the NBA standings over the past 10 years with this type of alignment and playoff formatting, and it works very well!

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