NBA Needs to Overhaul Its Playoff Format

With the NBA season past it’s midway point and All-Star Weekend finished, the focus of the rest of the season turns towards the playoffs and the race for the final playoff positions in both conferences. While there have been subtle mentions in the past about a playoff overhaul, those discussions have become far more frequent over the last few days. Most NBA fans, or rational ones at least, will recall how the Western Conference is regarded as the deeper conference over the last decade plus. That has triggered some minor debates about the merits of the current playoff format. In fact, most discussions have centered around taking the 16 teams with the best records into the playoffs, instead of the 8 best from each conference. In recent days, new ideas have been brought to the forefront of the discussion and the NBA is taking it’s first look at serious talks of a playoff overhaul. Let’s take a look at some of the ideas proposed and what the best options moving forward for an NBA playoff overhaul are.

Taking the 16 best teams

The most common and long held take regarding an NBA playoff overhaul involves taking the top 16 teams and seeding them accordingly in a bracket style playoff. This would put the legitimate 16 best teams in the playoffs instead of taking the 8 best from each conference. Under this format, the 16 teams who made the playoffs would not have changed, but their seeding and their paths to the finals change a little bit. In 2015-2016 the Bulls missed the playoffs in the East, but would have nabbed the final playoff spot in this system over the 41-41 Houston Rockets. The year before, the Thunder missed the playoffs at 45-37. However, they would have been the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference that year. In reality the top 16 teams make the playoffs more often than not, but seeding and creating match-ups with a disregard for conference affiliation would make the playoffs a lot more interesting.

7-10 Seed Play-In Tournament

ESPN’s Zach Lowe first reported on the new discussions centering on a 4-team playoff format in each conference (between the 7-10 seeds) to determine playoff seeding for the 7th and 8th seeds. Under the format the 7th and 8th seeds in each conference would play and the winner would get the 7th seed. The 9th and 10th seeds would play with the winner moving on to play the loser of the 7 and 8 game to battle it out for the 8th seed in the playoffs. While this is a newer discussion brought to the table, it is still a long ways away from potentially being implemented in the NBA playoff discussion. With this plan, the NBA hopes to reduce tanking and make it more viable for teams to stay competitive for the entire 82 game slate.

There have been also some talks of expanding the lottery and including the 7th and 8th seeds in the lottery to also add additional support against tanking. Will either of those moves completely eliminate tanking for the worst teams in the league? Not entirely, but any move to make the playoff race even more competitive could go along way towards making the NBA more competitive from top to bottom. And generating more interest in the playoffs as a whole.

The NBA needs an overhaul to their playoff system. A multiple step overhaul that also gives incentives to make 9, 10 and potentially even 11 seeds reasons to stay competitive and avoid tanking are all things that can increase the overall play of the league. I am a major fan of the top 16 teams making the playoffs regardless of conference. I support a potential play-in tournament to supplement the top 16 seeding format. The top 16 teams making the playoffs and seeding them accordingly will create some interesting match-ups as the playoffs progress. Having the top 12 teams securely in the playoffs, while the next eight teams battle it out for the final four spots would generate a bigger interest in the beginning of the NBA playoffs. It would help to put an end to “tanking.” The NBA needs to address the One and Done issue, but a playoff overhaul should be the second task on the list.

It’s still a few years out, and requires a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, but I believe it would help make the NBA more competitive than it already is.

4 Flaws Behind Lavar Ball’s Big Baller Brand League

Stop me if you’ve head this before: Lavar Ball is in the news. The self proclaimed Big Baller announced this week he will be launching his own professional league for high school players who do not want to attend college for a year. The league would ideally, in Ball’s eyes, consist of ten teams, with eight players each. Each player would make anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000.

Like most things that come out of Lavar’s mouth, the league was heavily criticized by the basketball world. First off, I know this is just a ploy to get his two other sons playing in a “professional” league on American soil. That said, I don’t think the idea is a crazy one, but I do think there are flaws in the way from making this league a hit. Let’s look at four reasons the Big Baller League won’t work out.

Competition Level

Ball says this league is designed to jump start players’ careers. He thinks it will be easy to attract talent, but I disagree. Playing in the BBB League won’t be much different than playing in high school. More often than not, the best prospects already face off either in high school tournaments and showcases, or on the AAU circuit. If the best high school players go to this league, we’re not seeing if they are ready for the next level. The point of going to college is to see if a freshman is able to play at the speed of the college game, against older, more mature competition.

G League/One-and-Done Rule

Another factor is the progress the NBA is making in their developmental league, as well as their openness to altering the one and done rule. For one, if Adam Silver decides to eliminate the rule, Lavar’s league loses all excitement around it. He would not attract the top talent, that top talent would go to the league. It would be near impossible to field 80 players that would make fans excited. In addition, the NBA has gone to great lengths to develop to G League into a place where players can grow and mature, while being close to a NBA franchise. The players may not have the exposure of a prime time college game, or even Lavar’s league, but they are working with a NBA franchise. That cannot be topped in terms of developing.

Roster Size

Another thing to consider is the size of every team. Eight players is not enough to field a basketball team for a season. If we’re playing glorified pick up games from week-to-week then sure. But if this is going to be an actual league for players to showcase themselves, it needs to be legitimate. To play at an elite level, you need to be able to rotate more than eight players on a given night. What happens with foul trouble? Eight is not enough, and I don’t think he will be able to field ten teams of ten.

College Coaches

The last reason Lavar’s league won’t work for the premiere prospects is the knowledge they can learn from college coaches. Would Joel Embiid have developed so quickly had he not gone to Bill Self’s School of Bigs? Would the BBB League really get players more ready for the NBA than John Calipari does? Does anyone in the BBB League have the wealth of knowledge  that Krzyzewski, Izzo, Boeheim, Beilein and Williams do? The answer is no. Maybe you’re not making the money (save your pay for play jokes) but you can’t put a price on playing for a Hall of Fame coach before you go to the NBA. In many cases, playing for them will only help you make more money in the long run.

Lavar Ball is a marketing genius. He convinced people to buy a pair of sneakers for $500. He is literally talking his sons, and his brand, into existence. His idea is not insane by any means. Is the BBB League better than playing in, I don’t know, Lithuania? Absolutely. But for the real blue chip players, there are better options and better ways to market yourself to NBA teams. Lavar Ball is definitely the type of guy capable of running a league. However, that league is probably closer to the XFL than any league for high school basketball prospects.

NBA All Star Game Change Is A Step In The Right Direction

All Star Game

In a head-turning decision this past week, the NBA has officially changed the All Star Game rules. The new game format will go into effect for the 2018 All Star Game, so let’s go over how it may play out. 

Ever since the NBA introduced the concept of an All-Star Game In 1951, the structure has remained more or less the same. Throughout the season, fans get to vote on the best players in the league from both conferences, and the players from each conference with the most votes play in an exhibition match at the end of the All-Star weekend for entertainment. However, it’s no secret that in recent years the game has turned into a farce. The winning team scoring nearly 200 points in what seems to be a combination of the dunk contest and 3-point shootout. Thanks to the new rules made official this past week, the game is finally changing for the better.

First, let’s go over what the new All Star Game will consist of. The premise of the game remains the same: two teams made up of NBA all stars facing off against each other in an exhibition match. However, instead of the two teams consisting of the best talent from conferences East and West, this year’s game has a different twist. The two players, regardless of conference. who receive the most votes will now act as captains of either team, and build their team from the remaining 22 voted players.. Some speculate this is a result of so much of the league’s talent moving from the East to the West. While the ASG has been dominated by the West (11-6 in the last 17 years), it is unlikely that this was the sole reason for the change No more East vs. West, just an eclectic pool of the NBA’s highest quality. At the end of the game, the victor gets to donate the winnings to the charity of their choice. Frankly, this change could not have come soon enough.

Any basketball fan who has watched the game in recent years knows it is hardly entertainment. And while there’s no reason for the players to be leaving every ounce of energy on the court as if it were the Championship, the lackadaisical and nonchalant play mirrors that of a pickup game of HORSE among schoolyard friends (who also just happen to be 6’7″ and able to hit a shot from anywhere beyond half court).

With the new rules in place, players have more to play for, and possibly more to play against. Modern rivalries now have the possibility to face off instead of playing on the same team (Durant vs. Westbrook, Harden vs. Curry). But arguably the most intriguing rule change comes at the end, when the winning side decides on their charity of choice. If there was one way to successfully poke the All Star Game with the cattle-prod of competitiveness, it was through charity. Whether it be Lebron James and The Lebron James Family Foundation, Stephen Curry and his Nothing But Nets campaign, or just about any all star and their associated charity of choice, you would be hard pressed to find an NBA player who isn’t actively running or supporting a national or international charity.

While the new rules are hardly Adam Silver’s sweeping declaration demanding the game to be a medieval joust between Lebron and Curry, they are at the very least a step in the right direction. Kudos to you, National Basketball Association.

If you want to read more in depth about the NBA’s change to the All Star Game, click here.

 

Twitter: andrew_mck11   

NBA to Make Changes on Draft Lottery, Players Resting

The NBA voted to pass two league changes that will benefit the game experience for fans everywhere. In what was a two-day meeting in New York, the NBA Board of Governors voted on a draft lottery reform, as well as stricter guidelines for teams to rest players. The draft lottery reform needed 75% vote in favor, while the resting players guideline just needed a majority vote.

What these rules mean

A reform to the draft lottery prevents “The Process” from being a thing teams continue to do. It was put in place to discourage teams from tanking for the highest possible pick in the upcoming draft. No longer will the worst team have the highest chance of receiving the #1 pick. Instead, the bottom three teams will each have a 14% chance in obtaining the first selection. Previously, the worst team received a 25% chance. Second worst received 19.9% and third received a 15.6% chance. Now, the playing field levels out some.

The rule regarding sitting healthy players is something Commissioner Adam Silver has said needed to change. Commissioner Silver now has the ability to fine teams for unnecessarily sitting out players. Whether it be sitting multiple players out of one game, or sitting star players out of NBA televised games, Commissioner Silver has the power to hand out fines if he deems necessary. Emphasis was put in teams resting players at home, where hometown fans have the chance to see them more often, rather than on the road.

What these rules do for the NBA

I am a big fan of both these changes, and I am a Knicks fan who is looking at the lottery for the next couple of years. Preventing teams from tanking makes them compete every night. With a 25% chance of obtaining the #1 overall pick, bad teams have been rewarded for failing. I’m not saying it’s a bad plan; look at the Sixers. It got them Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz and Joel Embiid. But while Sixer fans are getting ready to reap the benefits of The Process, the process itself is a miserable product to watch. The Sixers were never televised and attendance was never great due to the common assumption that the team was tanking to build for the future. This change should alter the product put on the floor.

As for the resting players, this will hopefully get rid of the “I Came Here to See Lebron and He’s Not Playing” signs that pop up across the country every season. From a fan point of view, there’s nothing more frustrating than seeing a team come into town and rest their best player. You go to support your team, but you also go to see the best in the world compete. The same can be said for TV. Primetime games are not primetime if the stars are all sitting out. Putting morre authority in the commissioner’s hands will hopefully help both the leagues TV ratings and alleviate fan frustration.

I think both rules that were passed today are a step forward for basketball. For years, I have been a supporter of college basketball over professional basketball. I believe the product is just better in the NCAA. However, with the NCAA in a bit of destruction, these rule changes could help the NBA gain ground. I think it will definitely help enhance the product, in turn helping attendance, ratings and fan support for the league.

Alternatives to ‘One-and-Done’ to Disrupt Tradition

In a recent press conference earlier this month, NBA commissioner Adam Silver touched on a number of topics and issues surrounding the league, including the controversial one-and-done rule. Silver expressed his indifference toward the rule, which the league adopted in the 2015 Collective Bargaining Agreement. He called for a change, but was vague in his solutions to fix it. The issue is far from black and white.

The rule, which says that players must be at least one year removed from high school, was essentially re-approved in the CBA last year“My sense is it’s not working for anyone,” Silver said as he addressed members of the media.

Ironically enough, Silver’s comments came just hours before game one of the NBA Finals, when Kevin Durant, perhaps a poster child when it comes to the generation of one-and-dones, overwhelmed Cleveland dropping 38 points in a Golden State blowout win. On the other side was one of the greatest to play the game, LeBron James – a player who impacted the game immediately after wrapping up his high school career.

A solution seems impossible to come to when players have carved out different paths to success. Some came from high school, some were one and done in college, and some expereienced long collegiate careers before finding their way to the NBA. While the rule is backed and enforced by the league, it has had a much bigger impact at the collegiate level.

During an interview with Colin Cowherd earlier this month, Silver made his intentions clear that he does want to call for a change in the process. While the league wants to up the age from 19 to 20 years old, the NBA player’s union wishes to see required age drop from 19 to 18. Silver said the league is “rethinking” their position on the ruling.

In the league’s first year of inception with the one-and-done rule, there were two players who classified entering the 2006 draft. They were LSU’s Tyrus Thomas and Memphis’ Shawne Williams. That number of freshmen entering the draft has jumped to up to as many as two dozen expected players who are vying for a pro contract in the upcoming draft. But is there that much of a difference between high school grads and a few months experience at a collegiate level?

Players’ roads to success varies greatly. Two of the most compared players in the sport had very different backgrounds prior to playing professionally. While LeBron James made a seamless transition from the high school level to the pros, Michael Jordan made a name for himself at the University of North Carolina long before he led the Chicago Bulls to waves of success.

Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett both had Hall of Fame Careers coming straight out of high school

With pros and cons speaking to both “sides” of the issue, there doesn’t seem to be a right or wrong solution. The NBA should look to decrease the restrictions on how players enter the league, allowing prospects different avenues to the pro level. And why not? It’s worked for arguably every other major pro sports leagues.

The NBA could look at other CBA models from the industry. The MLB, for example, offers a few different routes for their prospects. A player can declare for the draft immediately following high school graduation when presented with a contract, or is eligible after completion of their junior year at a four-year institution. The NBA however, could consider dropping the three-year requirement to a two-year one. It’s a process that has worked for baseball. While there is a big difference between baseball and basketball as far as player-impact goes and starters to roster ratio, a reformed way could be an option.

Already established outlets are getting a face lift, too. A bigger focus is to be had with the D-League, soon to be called the G-League or Gatorade League. An increased revenue will allow the developmental league to establish a true minor league setup with players having direct relationships with all 30 NBA teams. The revamping of the G-League would benefit the NBA, but could have a drastic and negative impact on the college game. Highly regarded talent who have their eyes set on being a pro may see very little reason to attend college at all, thus resulting in a negative impact for the NCAA. The “minor league” will be a pipeline of talent taken right from high school.

The incentive isn’t just to gain exposure from pro teams, but also to earn money through contracts which would relieve many players’ financial burdens – something that cannot be done while playing in college. Even when earning a scholarship, there is little to no point when most don’t see themselves in college for more than a year.

While the rule remains in place for seven years thanks to the most recent CBA which was signed in January, the NBA and NBPA can reopen negotiations and work to find an answer that will satisfy both sides. We can expect to see this topic grow after the NBA season is complete.

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