Over the weekend, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe dropped a bombshell report, detailing some proposed changes to the league as we know it.
The conversation isn’t anything new, necessarily, but the potential impact is. The NBA might finally act upon the growing initiative to change the regular-season schedule and playoff structure for as soon as the 2021-22 season.
According to the report, the league is eyeing an April vote by the NBA’s Board of Governors that could look at the reseeding of the four conference finalists, an in-season tournament, and a play-in postseason opportunity. Yup, that’s some major change across the board.
Each new addition carries its own unique obstacles, but the mid-season tournament appears to have the greatest impact on the league’s traditional structure.
For what it might look like, here’s a snippet from the report:
For the in-season tournament, the NBA is focused on 30-team participation that begins with a divisional group stage of scheduled regular-season games. Those pre-knockout-round games would be part of the regular-season schedule. Six divisional winners — based on home and road records in the group stage — and the two teams with the next-best records would advance to a single-elimination knockout round, league sources said. Those teams could each potentially compete in the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. Proposals exist that would compensate players and coaches for advancing in and winning the tournament, league sources said.
Adding this tournament would mean decreasing the number of regular-season games (78 at a minimum, according to the report). And fewer games mean fewer dollars … organizations like dollars. The general thought though seems to be that a tournament including all 30-teams would generate enough revenue to outweigh the loss of money a franchise sees from fewer home games, especially in the long term. And while that might be true, the question is really about whether it’s a risk worth taking.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver certainly seems to think so, and I’d have to agree. The idea of fewer regular-season games has been floated around for years, especially with the last week of the regular season oftentimes played with the postseason already decided. The report lists a proposal for players and coaches to be compensated for advancing or winning the tournament, which kind of feels necessary, right? What else is going to be insensitive for these superstars to compete at a high-level when their sights are still set on the Larry O’Brien trophy.
As for how the postseason play-in games would work, here’s what Wojnarowski and Lowe shared:
Two four-team tournaments featuring the seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th seeds in each conference. The seventh seed would host the eighth seed, with the winner of that single game earning the seventh spot, league sources said. The ninth seed would host the 10th seed, with the winner of that game facing the loser of the 7-vs.-8 matchup for the final playoff spot.
Um, so that sounds like organized chaos, and I kind of love it.
This would further discourage teams from tanking and increase the competitive effort across the bottom half of each conference. The Eastern Conference – and a team like the Chicago Bulls – could greatly benefit from something new like this, as it would likely keep NBA fans devoted throughout the entirety of the season.
I’m down for something new, but I totally understand how difficult it will be for the league to pull this all off. The NBAPA has to agree on all these changes, and if Silver wants this done by the start of 2021-2022, negotiations are going to have to happen fast. Not to mention, the league is going to have to restructure broadcasting deals across the board.
The Crossover’s Michael McCann recently shared an article analyzing the things standing in the NBA’s way. Fair warning, the piece goes pretty in-depth, but if you want to understand how complicated all of this can be, it’s a great read.
Anyway, with how much amazing talent the league has added over the last two decades, I’m all for changes that make the season more competitive. Let’s get weird!