NBA Playoffs: The Round Robin
NBA Playoff basketball is basketball at its finest. It is one of the few times fans get to see the best players in the world give maximum effort night in and night out. While Playoff games are fantastic the structure of the tournament has some flaws. Fans do not get to see all of the playoff teams play each other, some series are one sided, and a one bad matchup, injury or suspension could end a playoff run for a team. The NBA should replace the first two rounds with a round robin tournament to fix the small issues the playoffs have.
Each team plays the teams in their conference twice (14 total games) and the teams with the two best records in the 14 game round robin advance to a 7 game series conference final. The winner of that series will go on a 7 game series NBA final.
The number 1 seed will get more home games as a reward for dominance in the regular season. The 1 seed only has to play three away games and as an added bonus they will have the easiest road games possible, at the number 6, 7 and 8 seeds. The 2 seed will only have four away, the 3 seed six away, 4 seed plays 7 away and seeds 5-8 are mirror images of 1-4.
This is better than the current reward for a successful regular season because being a higher seed isn’t always an advantage. Some years a team regresses during the end of a season and becomes an easier match up thea teams seeded below them. Sometimes a low seeded team may be a match up problem for some higher seeds. This may cause teams to lose games on purpose to get a more favorable first round. With the reward being home games instead of a lower seeded first round matchup a round robin ensures that winning regular season games is always beneficial.
Here is the way the schedule would have looked if it was done this year in the Western Conference:
|Game 1||Game 2||Game 3||Game 4||Game 5||Game 6||Game 7|
|Game 8||Game 9||Game 10||Game 11||Game 12||Game 13||Game 14|
A round robin system ensures that all of the marquee matchups will take place and limits the “who gives a crap” games. Imagine this: instead of rolling through the Bucks four times and kicking the depleted Bulls while they are down Miami plays Boston, Brooklyn, Indiana and New York. Not only would Miami have to play all of those teams twice, they would still have to play the Pacers again in a seven game series just like they would in the current system so the drama of the conference finals series stays intact.
The way things are now there is too much chance involved. Losing a player for one or two games in the playoffs, one blown call or getting stuck with a bad matchup can end a team’s season. With a round robin even if a team gets unlucky they can still survive because they will have more games to recover. This year Luol Deng missed all of the Bulls’ series with the Heat. If the playoffs were a round robin, Deng’s absence would have still been felt but the Bulls would have had a chance to tred in the water against the Bucks and Hawks until Deng recovered. The Thunder lost Russell Westbrook to injury in the first round. Imagine if Westbrook was able to play more meaningful games during his short post season instead of contributing to wins against a Houston team that OKC could handle without him.
Not only would a round robin be entertaining and fair it also makes sense from a business stand point. It guarantees each team will play fourteen games and that there will be fifty-six total games per conference. With two rounds of seven game sets a team can play up to fourteen games but could also play as little as eight. The total number of games in the first two rounds per conference can range from forty-two to as little as twenty-four and the better teams will be the ones playing less games because they will be able to end their series faster.
This change would revolutionize the way we find a true champion. In this system we would finally be able to find the team that is better than all of the other playoff qualifiers and not just the teams that they happen to be matched up against.