Last week ESPN’s Adrin Wojnarowski dropped one hell of a ‘woj bomb‘, announcing in conjunction with Zach Lowe, that the NBA and NBPA (National Basketball Player’s Association) are considering sweeping changes to the NBA calendar. The basketball world has spent the last week digesting these proposals and throwing out opinions on them…but what exactly are the changes that have been discussed?
The NBA is looking to find a way to introduce more competitive incentives into the league, making the current 82 game regular season feel less like the tedious slog that most fans and players see it to be. With the current set up, the season is essentially broken into two or three sections. There is the build up to the All Star break, through which many star players can ease themselves into the season, before ramping up their game following the February break and entering ‘playoff mode’. However, for some teams and players (such as last season’s Warriors), playoff mode wasn’t enabled until the last 10 games of the season, meaning the two months of basketball following that game are just seen as a ‘necessary evil’ before the start of the playoffs.
It’s exactly this which the league and player’s association are hoping to change, though I’m sure Adam Silver will be hoping it may discourage the blatant tanking that still runs through the league, despite last years Draft Lottery changes.
The proposed changes to the league wouldn’t take effect until the 2021-22 season (which just happens to be the NBA’s 75th Anniversary), which is starting to look like it could be quite the revolutionary season, if changes to the one and done rule are made ahead of that year’s draft, as is currently expected.
So, with all of that said, what exactly are these changes that everyone is talking about?
- Reduce the length of the regular season by 4 games, from 82 to 78
- The addition of an ‘in season tournament’, which is made possible by the shorter season
- ‘Play-in’ games for the playoffs
- Re-seeding the final four during the playoffs
Regular Season Length
Starting out with the most simple change, which is something that fans have been debating for a long time, making the regular season shorter. It’s something the league has discussed from time to time, however it has often been dismissed straight away due to the perceived drawbacks of reducing the schedule. So why would they make the change now, you might ask, that’s because the shortening of the regular season is required to make the in season tournament possible – quite simple!
In Season NBA Tournament
One of the biggest proposed changes is the introduction of an in season tournament, which we’re expecting to take place in late November/early December, essentially the only time of year that the league can conceivably fit this tournament in without clashing with other major sporting events or the Christmas games.
The tournament itself would work something like the UEFA Champions League… to a degree – hear me out.
The 30 NBA teams would be divided into divisional groups and the teams with the best and second best records (based on home and away records) would advance to a knockout stage of the tournament, in which there would be a quarterfinals stage, semifinals stage and a final… see, just like the Champions League.
So how, exactly, does this drive more ‘competitive incentive’ into the regular season, you may be asking yourself, the answer to that is quite simple. The ‘group stage’ games that lead into the knockout phase of the tournament, will actually be regular season games. Meaning what would normally be a rather mundane game between the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks, would now hold wider ramifications. The games that count towards the group phase will presumably be selected by the NBA ahead of the season. All in all, not the worst idea.
For those of you that do not follow college ball, you may be asking ‘what the hell is a play-in’? A very good question.
The concept of the play-in is as follows; the 7th and 8th seeded teams in each conference will play one game against each other, the loser of that game will then face the winner of a game against the 9th and 10th seeded teams. The winner of the game between those two teams would secure the final playoff spot… you with me?
So rather than the 7th and 8th seed automatically making the playoffs as we see currently, it throws an element of risk in for both teams, as well as giving teams outside of those top eight spots a last gasp chance to make the playoffs. Another interesting one, though I can see it leading to some broken hearts.
The Big Boy – Playoff Seeding
No, the league is not removing seeding by conference, we’re still stuck with that and probably will be for the rest of time… however, there could be some changes to playoff seeding in the not too distant future.
As part of these discussions, the league and NBPA are exploring the possibility of changing the seeding of the final four teams, what would normally be the conference finals. Meaning the seeding for the final four teams would be based on their regular season record, not their conference seeding.’ Let me use last year as an example.
The 2019 Conference Finals saw the Golden State Warriors (57-25) take on the Portland Trail Blazers (54-28) in the West and the Milwaukee Bucks (60-22) take on the Toronto Raptors (58-24) in the East. With the proposed new playoff seeding, we actually would have seen the Bucks face off against the Blazers and the Raptors face the Warriors, which could have led to a Bucks vs Raptors Finals. Mental.
That’s everything for the time being, the NBAand NBPA will hopefully discuss and solidify these changes during discussions and voting in April, but until then, I’m sure we’ll all continue to scrutinise and discuss them to death.