Like most basketball fans, I've been watching plenty of the NBA playoffs the last couple weeks. We've been treated to some good games and some interesting series, but every year, especially around the first round, I begin to voice to same complaints over and over again: there are too many teams, too many games, the postseason goes too long and the way the games are called becomes frustrating. I still enjoy the playoffs, but there is so much wrong with the current system. The structure needs an overhaul, with several major changes needing to be implemented.
Cut down the field
First off, there are too many teams in the playoffs. When I watch the postseason in any sport, I want to watch the quality teams. But in the NBA, I have to watch some average teams. I know this isn't the most original complaint, but it's the first step to creating a better postseason. Fans should not be subjected to watching mediocre basketball during the playoffs, and teams that produced middling regular seasons should not be rewarded with postseason berths. The number of playoff teams should be 12.
Scratch the conferences
The Eastern Conference has closed the gap between itself in the West, especially at the upper level. But the middle class of the Western Conference is still superior to that of the East.
Teams such as the Thunder, the Spurs and the Jazz are considerably better than the Bulls, the Bobcats and the Bucks. Once the playoffs roll around, the conferences should be scratched and teams should be seeded 1-12 based on records. Traveling isn't an issue anymore in this day and age, and this would make for much fairer pairings.
Shorten the series
With the current playoff system, a given team must win a seven-game series, then another seven-game series, then another seven-game series, and then, you guessed it, one more seven-game series to be crowned NBA Champions-that's 28 games. That high number just drags the postseason on and on, for about two months actually, nearly half as long as the entire regular season.
This is how it should be: With the first four teams on a bye, the first round should be a best two-of-three series. Then the second round can move up to three-out-of-five, and the semifinals and finals can go to seven game series. Not only does this shorten the current prolonged format, but it also adds much needed excitement to some of these first round series.
Fewer off days
This is another common complaint, but one that has to be addressed. The Bucks and the Hawks began their series April 17. As of today, that series has only gone four games with the series tied at two games a piece. The first four games of the season were played over nine days, with an absurd three-day break between games two and three. Fans have to wait around for these series to resume.
The time off takes a toll on the players, too. Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy has said it throws teams out of rhythm after playing a regular-season schedule largely composed of back-to-back games or a single day off between games. I understand the league wants to maximize its exposure and get as many games on national television as possible, but it's not fair to the players and fans to completely change the structure of a schedule.
Two nights ago I watched game four of the Magic-Bobcats series, and the whistles wouldn't stop. The gamewent three hours long, something I've never season from a regulation NBA game.
First of all, the referees are taking all the flow out of the game, as the contests have to pause over and over again for dead balls and free throws. And naturally, with everything on the line for these teams, the playoffs are going to produce a more physical brand of basketball than in the regular season, yet instead of embracing that, the refs are dictating the outcomes of games by whistling anything and everything. I, along with everyone else, would rather see a borderline foul be a non-call instead of a whistle. But that is not the way the refs are approaching these games.
With the NBA Playoffs, less is more. Less teams, less games, less off-days and less calls would make for much more meaningful and exciting basketball.
Think the NBA has their playoff schedule just right? E-mail Scott at email@example.com