Lots of NBA observers are calling for playoff reform, after the 48-win Suns failed to make the playoffs in the Western Conference and the 37-win Hawks made the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. They want the top 16 teams, record-wise, regardless of conference, to make the post-season.
I think it’s a bad idea and wrote about it for the Thursday Oklahoman, which you can read here.
But in the name of full disclosure, maybe we should at least look at what a readjusted NBA bracket would look like, if conference alignment was not a factor in the pairings. Just take the top 16 teams, pair them off via a traditional bracket and see what it looks like.
First, Phoenix would be in the playoffs and Atlanta would be out.
So here would be the first-round pairings, in order of the bracket:
1-San Antonio vs. 16-Charlotte
8-Golden State vs. 9-Memphis
4-Indiana vs. 13-Chicago
5-Houston vs. 12-Toronto
3-LA Clippers vs. 14-Washington
6-Miami vs. 11-Phoenix
7-Portland vs. 10-Dallas
2-Oklahoma City vs. 15-Brooklyn
A few notes. First, Brooklyn wouldn’t have been 15th. The Nets tanked the final week to get their desired Eastern Conference matchups. In likelihood, Brooklyn would have been 13th or so, meaning it would have been Indiana-Brooklyn, Clippers-Chicago and OKC-Washington. But no sweat. We’ll keep the bracket the way it is and discuss.
San Antonio-Charlotte: Is that an improvement over San Antonio-Dallas? No. Is Spurs-Bobcats better than Miami-Bobcats, which is what we have? No.
Golden State-Memphis: A good, solid matchup. But is that more intriguing than Warriors-Clippers or Grizzlies-Thunder? No.
Indiana-Chicago: Is that better than Pacers-Hawks or Bulls-Wizards. Yes. Absolutely yes.
Houston-Toronto: Is that better than Rockets-Blazers? No. Raptors-Nets? No.
Clippers-Washington: Is that better than Clippers-Warriors? Or even Wizards-Bulls? No on both counts. When is this new and improved bracket supposed to start looking good?
Heat-Suns: Is that better than Heat-Bobcats? Sure. Is that better than anything the Hawks would have been involved in? Yes.
Blazers-Mavericks: Is that better than Portland-Houston or Dallas-San Antonio? No way.
Thunder-Netropolitans: Is that better than OKC-Memphis? Well, it’s not half bad. Better than Nets-Raptors. Yes.
So on the whole, that bracket isn’t as good as the bracket we have.
Let’s move on to projected NBA quarterfinals.
Spurs-Warriors. Pacers-Rockets. Clippers-Heat. Thunder-Blazers. Sign us all up for Clippers-Heat, but otherwise, are those matchups as compelling as what we could have. Spurs-Rockets? Thunder-Clippers? Nets-Heat? Pacers-Bulls?
The proposed bracket switch shows no signs of giving us better playoff basketball, other adding a team (Phoenix) that isn’t likely to advance, in place of a team that has no chance of advancing. Seems a flimsy reason to change policy.