The NBA playoff format is flawed. In today's era of basketball, an East vs. West format just isn't as appealing as it used to be. Not only due to a lack of balance in the conferences for over a decade now, but because the majority of the limitations that used to exist in travel are no longer there.
However, while progress has been made in terms of travel, it still isn't perfect in the eyes of the league. In a press conference on Saturday, Silver was asked about the playoffs and he brought up the possibility of a change to the current format. The NBA commissioner hinted at the possible end of conferences and going to a format that rewards the top 16 teams with the best overall record in the league.
I've said in the past, the obstacle is travel, and it's not tradition in my mind, at least. It's that as we've added an extra week to the regular season, as we've tried to reduce the number of back-to-backs, that we are concerned about teams crisscrossing the country in the first round, for example. We are just concerned about the overall travel that we would have in the top 16 teams.
Having said that, you also would like to have a format where your two best teams are ultimately going to meet in the Finals, and obviously, if it's the top team in the East and the top team in the West, I'm not saying this is the case this year, but you could have a situation where the top two teams in the league are meeting in the conference finals or somewhere else.
So we're going to continue to look at that. It's still my hope that we're going to figure out ways. Maybe ultimately you have to add even more days to the season to spread it out a little bit more to deal with the travel. Maybe air travel will get better. All things we'll keep looking at.
It's good to hear that the league is at least looking at changing the current playoff format. There are definitely times where it feels outdated and it's frustrating in season's like this one where the two best teams in the NBA happen to play in the same conference. It creates a feeling that the NBA Finals themselves will be underwhelming.
However, as Silver mentioned, travel is a real concern. It's where the largest amount of fatigue is put on players and coaches. If a team had to play a long seven-game series that had them traveling across the continent in the first round, only to play a team in the second round that didn't deal with the same travel fatigue, that might feel unfair. Nonetheless, it sounds like the NBA wants to eventually move to a 1-16 format, so there is hope.