Changes needed: A case for the NBA playoff system


The Appalachian Online

The Appalachian

Since the early 90s, there has been a growing imbalance of power between the NBA’s Eastern and Western Conferences in favor of the latter.

It is a trend so apparent that even NBA league commissioner Adam Silver has taken notice and made comments on the matter during a game between the Golden State Warriors and the Dallas Mavericks regarding potential formatting changes that the league is considering.

“Ultimately we want to see your best teams in the playoffs and there is an unbalance and a certain unfairness,” Silver said. “There is a proposal where the division winners would all automatically go into the playoffs and then you’d seed the next 10 best teams. I think that’s the kind of proposal we need to look at.”

The proposal Silver mentioned was suggested by one of the game’s broadcast announcers, not the league.

Under the current playoff format, the winningest eight teams from each conference are given playoff spots. Each conference has three division winners, who are the top three seeds in the playoff bracket, and the remaining teams are seeded by record in spots four through eight.

This format has afforded playoff berths to NBA East teams that have had far worse records than NBA West teams that missed the cut.

Recently casualties include the 2013 Phoenix Suns (48-34), who missed the playoffs by one win in the NBA West behind the Dallas Mavericks (49-33), yet would’ve been tied for the third-seed in the NBA East, guaranteeing home-court advantage in the first round.

In 2012, the Utah Jazz (43-39) missed the playoffs, despite having a better record than the seven- and eight-seeded teams in the NBA East.

In 2009 and 2010, the Houston Rockets missed the playoffs despite having a better record than the eight-seed in the East.

See the trend? Delve deeper into the recent history of the NBA playoffs and you’ll find more of the same.

And although the NBA East is unusually formidable this season, the projected seven- and eight-seeds – the Charlotte Hornets and the Miami Heat – both have identical losing records of 22-30.

In the NBA West, league superstar Kevin Durant’s Oklahoma City Thunder and Anthony Davis’ New Orleans Pelicans feature winning records, but run the risk of being on the outside-looking-in when the playoffs begin.

As a fan, I want to watch the best teams in the playoffs – not the teams deemed acceptable by a faulty, failed system. It’s time for a change.

Warner, a junior journalism major from Waxhaw, is an intern sports reporter.