The NBA is evolving, both on the court and in the boardroom. The NBA expects us to sit through a potential seven-game series of either the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers versus the eighth-seeded, sub .500 Eastern Conference scrub that will get blown out in four straight games.
Mr. Adam Silver, let me help you out here. The 2014 NBA Draft stands to be one of the strongest ever, and you are sitting on one of the most lopsided conference differentials of all time (thus far).
What I'm suggesting to you isn't madness and can be simply voted on. Eliminate the Western Conference and then eliminate the Eastern Conference, not the divisions, as you are suggesting. You keep the divisions; give teams an extra banner to hang in the rafters of their arenas.
You want to increase playoff ratings and ultimately the sponsorship deals that you sign that lead to better bottom lines and a bigger TV contract next time?
Take the best sixteen teams, based on record; have them represent your league in the playoffs.
For one thing, it might prevent the top teams from coasting and resting certain players at certain times during the season. We might not have seen Gregg Popovich send Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Danny Green home last year for their game in Miami. We could see teams fighting it out for the one seed for the fear of having to grind out a seven-game series against the 15th-seeded Memphis Grizzlies.
In any other year that is not 2014, you ask a fan if they would rather be in the lottery or make the playoffs and 99.8% of the time they'll say make the playoffs.
For example: The Phoenix Suns right now would be the 11th seed in these playoffs and be set to square off against Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the Los Angeles Clippers. That's potentially a beatable opponent for them! They could shock the Clippers, move on to the next round and make some more money for their cheap owner, Robert Sarver.
If they do happen to lose, then they get the 19th pick in the draft and have a shot to land small forward James Young out of Kentucky. Hey, that's not exactly a bad consolation prize if you ask me. It's a position of need (sorry P.J. Tucker fans) and you got Eric Bledsoe and Alex Len some playoff experience against a team that was expected to compete for a championship!
How is this a bad thing?
How about when Kobe Bryant comes back and valiantly leads the Los Angeles Lakers all the way up the ladder from their current spot at the 16th seed to the 13th, and there waiting for them is the fourth-seeded, the dream of all dreams, LeBron James and the Miami Heat? That might be the most anticipated first round match-up of all time.
In the end there might feel like there is a bit of a west coast bias here, but right now all of the best basketball is played out west. Twelve of the fifteen teams are above .500 and only eight will get to make the playoffs. Meanwhile, in the Eastern Conference, only two of the fifteen teams are above .500, which means that as of now, six teams in the East would make the playoffs with a record of .500 or below, and no one is exactly jumping for joy at the prospects of Pacers-Bobcats in the first round.
Pacers-Timberwolves? You now have me a bit more intrigued.
For the first time in a long time (or ever), the NBA would come up with an idea that is not only great for the fans, but also the players, the owners, the league and all their corporate sponsors/television networks.
I could just imagine the uproar now of the 31-51, Atlantic Division Champion, New York Knicks, who under the old format was guaranteed of at least the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, being replaced by the 45-37 Minnesota Timberwolves, who would have finished eleventh in the Western Conference.
Let's make this happen now.