Now that the NBA playoffs are in full swing, I have another bone to pick with the Association regarding its playoff format.
It takes way ... too ... long.
Those of you aware of my disdain for the NBA (note I only said NBA; college and high school basketball are perfectly fine with me) likely should have seen this coming, but it’s true.
But before I get bombarded with hate-mail, let me show you the reasons why.
Under the NBA playoff format enacted in 2003, each playoff series was changed to a best-of-seven games format. From 1984 until 2002, the first round was a more manageable best-of-five. Players and fans didn’t like it, arguing that it could lead to too many upsets, so the current change of all rounds being best-of-seven was put into place.
This year’s first round began on April 20, and if it goes all seven games, won’t end until May 4, two days before the next round is scheduled to begin.
That means it could take up to two weeks just to complete the first round.
Next comes the conference semi-finals and the finals Рanother two weeks eachР and finally, the finals.
The NBA Finals this year is scheduled to start no earlier than June 4, and Game 7, if necessary, takes place on either June 18 or 20.
The reason behind such a lengthy postseason is the system employed by the NBA. The format for the first three rounds is a 2-2-1-1-1 series, meaning the home team gets games 1,2, 5 and 7 at home. Add a day off for travel between the 1-1-1 games, and it could mean an extra week just to play two or three games.
The format only changes during the NBA Finals, a 2-3-2 series.
If the finals ends up going through all seven possible games, the playoffs could last as long as two months.
Of all the professional sports playoff systems, only the National Hockey League takes as long as the NBA. Major League Baseball, even with an additional Wild Card game, only takes about a month to finish. The NFL playoffs also take about five weeks, and even golf’s playoff system lasts no longer than four or five weeks.
If the league is willing to change even the slightest toward my vision the playoffs, it could lead to a more casual fan base.
The first round should be a best-of-three series. Blasphemy you say, but a much older playoff format I dug up actually shows the NBA playoffs used to be a best-of-three first round.
On top of that, a higher seed shouldn’t need seven games to dispatch its lower counterparts. Upsets are rare (only five No. 8 seeds have beaten a No. 1 seed, for example) so three first round games is plenty.
Also, to save on travel time, the higher seed should host all three games. It typically takes a lower seed until the very end of the season to make the playoffs; they shouldn’t be allowed to have any home games.
The next round should be a best-of-five, 2-2-1 format. Allow one day of travel in between home arenas and the series lasts no longer than one week.
The last two rounds can remain the same, however, both rounds should follow a 2-3-2 format with day’s off between home sites for travel.
Using this year’s timetable for the playoffs, Game 7 of the NBA Finals would be held on Wednesday, May 22, just over a month before it started.
It certainly seems better than waiting for up to two months for a champion.
I look forward to your angry letters.