The NBA is considering scrapping divisions. Deputy commissioner Adam Silver today NBATV that the reasons for divisional play – enhance rivalries, decrease travel – might not have come to fruition. So the league will consider an alignment of just two conferences, with 15 teams in each.
I like the idea. For one thing, it provides clarity.
The NBA has flirted with giving division winners a higher seed, even if the overall won-loss record doesn’t match that of non-division winners. But the NBA has kept the homecourt advantage with the better-record team, which makes for nothing but confusion.
Maybe divisions have helped travel budgets, but only a little. San Antonio plays Houston and Dallas four times each year, but under the current scheduling model, the Spurs also often play Portland or Golden State four times a year.
And rivalries haven’t necessarily been enhanced. Portland is in a division with Oklahoma City but not with Sacramento or Golden State. OKC is in a division with Minnesota and Utah, but not the Texas teams.
Geographic alignment is a little skewed, because three franchises that really fit in nicely in the East – New Orleans, Memphis and Minnesota, all on the Mississippi River – are in the Western Conference.
Worse yet, schedules are unbalanced. Teams play division opponents four times each. Teams play the other conference teams twice each. Then for the other 10 teams in the same conference, a franchise plays some four times and some three times.
That schedule imbalance would not be fixed by scrapping divisions. Teams still would play some foes four times and some foes three times. But it at least would clear up the playoff seedings. One through eight, everything’s clear.
I don’t know if allowances would be made for natural rivals to play four times each every year. Clippers-Lakers, for instance. Mavericks-Spurs. Knickerbockers-Netropolitans.
But the playoff format would be cleared up.
I’ve been after our brass and the Associated Press to not even list the standings by division. They’re virtually meaningless. The conference standings are what matter.
Sounds like Adam Silver, who in two months becomes the NBA commissioner, realizes it.