Addressing reporters yesterday before Game 1 of the NBA Finals, commissioner Adam Silver spoke about the issue of playoff seeding, one of the issues that's been gaining momentum in terms of something that might potentially change, and very soon. Via Pro Basketball Talk, here's what Silver said:
For a couple years NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has suggested the divisions (or at least rewarding their winner) should be done away with, and he reiterated that again on Thursday, addressing the media before Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
"Having said that, we are very focused on the divisional seeding process, and I think we are going to take a very close look at whether we should seed at least 1 through 8 by conference as opposed to giving the division winner that higher seed," Silver said. "So that is something we are taking a close look at that, and we may change that fairly quickly. As I’ve said earlier, that is a vestige of a division system that may not make sense anymore."
Silver added the NBA is not yet going to just put the best 16 teams in the playoffs and seed regardless of conference, as has been suggested by some fans and media members.
"I think ultimately where (the owners) came out is this notion of 1 through 16 seeding, while it seems attractive in many ways, because of the additional travel that will result, it just doesn’t seem like a good idea at the moment," Silver said. "This notion of, for example, this team would have played Boston in the first round under a 1 through 16 seeding and would have had to crisscross back and forth across the country, which does not seem like a good idea, especially based on the earlier question based on the health of our players, and focusing on actually reducing the amount of travel and back to backs."
The Raptors won 49 games this season, and earned their playoff seeding (even if we can talk about how mediocre the last four months of the season was), but if the seeding system changes to rank teams 1 through 8 based on record, that could impact them in several ways.
First, it's unclear if any proposed new system would eliminate divisions altogether, meaning say in a scenario where the Raptors won the Atlantic Division but had the ninth best record in the league, would that remove them from the playoffs altogether, or do division winners still automatically clinch a playoff berth but are instead seeded by record and not guaranteed a top-four seed (and not home court advantage if they play a team with a better record than them in the playoffs, you see how convoluted the current system is?)
If winning the division doesn't matter at all, then the Raptors lose the advantage of having a playoff spot just on the basis of having rebuilding and poorly built teams in their division. But the silver lining is that it puts the franchise in the position where they have to build a championship contender, and not hide behind an above average roster not capable of advancing past the first round of the playoffs. This is not what the Raptors are, at least we think, under Masai Ujiri, and it's probably a much larger problem for a lot of teams in the East, who can often talk themselves into year-to-year improvement because it only takes the tiniest opening for anyone to slip right into the Conference Finals, or even the Finals.
The other recommendation, which Silver isn't ready to do yet, is to simply seed 1 through 16 for the entire league, and do away with conferences. In this scenario, the impact is clear: the West is simply better right now as a whole, and the Raptors would need to be near 50 wins to even have a chance at home court advantage, and doing any damage in the playoffs. Which, to be honest, would provide teams with a more honest assessment of where they stand with regards to the rest of the league, and not just a vacuum where the Raptors are better than the Nets, Knicks, 76ers and Celtics and have home court advantage in the playoffs.
What does everyone think about the potential changes?