Why the NBA Playoff System Needs to be Fixed

By Evan Caulfield on April 29, 2015

It’s no secret that the NBA playoff system has been a complete mess, allowing lousy Eastern Conference teams into the playoffs and quality Western Conference teams out of contention.

Take this season. The Oklahoma City Thunder were eliminated from the playoffs after falling one game short to the New Orleans Pelicans.

Theoretically, if the Thunder were in the Eastern Conference, they would have been ahead of the Bucks, Celtics and Nets for 6th place in the East.

What’s worse is that last year wasn’t any better.

Like the Thunder, the Phoenix Suns theoretically would have placed 3rd or 4th in the East, having an equal record to the Bulls and Raptors, and a better record than the Wizards, Nets, Hornets and Hawks (all playoff teams).

In fact, for the past 19 seasons, the top 16 teams with the best records have only reached the playoffs five times.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver met with the board of governors last year to discuss fixing the current playoff system, but unfortunately no progress was made.

“What’s come up is whether we should be reseeding the playoff teams, whether we should have a different process for selecting those teams that do make the playoffs,” Silver said. “The sense of the room was that certainly no one was advocating a particular change at this time. It was more of a suggestion.”

One of the proposed ideas was to pick the 16 best teams to compete in the playoffs, instead of allowing the 8 best teams in each conference to advance.

The problem is, this new format would eliminate the need to even have two conferences, stopping annual events like the NBA All-Star game.

It’s also important to note that this would cause the current division system to become null and void, which awards division winners a top 4 seed, even if their records weren’t as good as other playoff teams.

An example of how broken the division system is came into question this season when the Portland Trailblazers finished fourth in the West, despite the Grizzlies and Spurs having better records this season.

Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers told ESPN Los Angeles that it’s clear the current playoff system is flawed, especially when it comes to the current division format.

“I think the divisions are important,” Rivers said. “They’re nice to be celebrated, for some and some not, but I don’t know if they should be celebrated as far as in the standings. I think it’s something that the league will absolutely look at and try to fix. You shouldn’t be rewarded if your record isn’t as good as others.”

So far there’s yet to be a solution that would balance out the playoffs and create fairness all across the league.

Commissioner Adam Silver stated there’s a possibility for change, but for now he intends on keeping the current playoff system intact.

“The league is doing so well right now, I just want to be very deliberate and cautious about any major changes like that,” Silver said. “It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make changes, and of course like any organization we should and we will. … It’s just the beginning of the process right now.”

Hit me up on Twitter @fieldhoops and lets talk basketball!

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