NBA playoff seeding has too often been a tangled web of nonsensical rewards. Well things are changing immediately and it’s off to a good start. It happened all too often. Last year, for example, in the first round of the West playoffs, the 51-win Blazers had home-court advantage over the 55-win Grizzlies. Why? Because Portland won its division…an outdated concept that once upon a time had to do with which side of the Mississippi River your gym was located on…
And now that’s dead.
The NBA has announced that going forward the top eight teams in each conference will be seeded for the playoffs based upon their records. It seems so logical, so simple…and good on new commissioner Adam Silver for once again overseeing a natural change for the better.
It’s still advantageous to win your division because a title is a second tiebreaker after head-to-head record. But for the most part, a team like the Mavs now avoids an unfair penalty for having to play in the loaded Southwest Division, where they have little chance of jumping ahead of, say, the Spurs…but shouldn’t be punished just because they aren’t in the same division with teams with inferior records.
Where this needs to go: The complete elimination of divisions — and conferences — altogether.
There are still, and will always be, some imbalances. Travel for teams in the populous East is less demanding than travel for the Blazers, Jazz and Nuggets, for instance. But now that playoffs are essentially 1-8 in each conference, we’re a step closer to playoffs becoming 1-16.
The concept of “divisions’’ is an arcane one. But so it is with “conferences,’’ which is borne of baseball’s “American League’’ and “National League’’ actually having been separate leagues, and thus the “World Series’’ was the season-ending way of bringing them together.
That’s dead now and has been for some time with the introduction of inter-league play. Now NBA divisions are all-but dead as well. The regional concept is actually sort of comical; the champion Warriors are based in Oakland, California, an entire continent away from a Memphis, Tennessee team that it needed to beat to advance. In the specific case of the Mavs, Dallas is no more “west’’ than Milwaukee is “east’’…and if those two franchises swapped conferences, the Mavs fan’s head swims at the level of success Dallas would’ve experienced in the last 15 years in the “Jayvee’’ conference.
This isn’t just Mavs-centric, of course. Last year, the Nets finished with 38 wins and made the playoffs. The Thunder finished with 45 wins and didn’t.
Why? Because of the Mississippi River.