Rule and format changes may be in store for the NBA. ESPN reports that changes are being talked about seriously, with commissioner Adam Silver, the National Basketball Players Association, and the league’s broadcast partners engaging in discussions recently. And if the NBA has its way, these changes will be implemented in the league’s 75th anniversary season in 2021.
NBA Considers Rule and Format Changes for 2021–22 Season and Beyond
The NBA’s 82-game regular season began in the 1967–68 season. Half a century later that is still the case. But lately, there have been calls to shorten the regular season into something more player-friendly. These come on the heels of load management (first popularized by the San Antonio Spurs) being taken to the extreme. Teams like the Los Angeles Clippers have been “resting” their best players (Kawhi Leonard and Paul George) more often to keep them healthy and fresh for the postseason. In response, Commissioner Silver is arguing for a 78-game season. That may not seem like much of a drop, but it’s a step in the right direction.
The Playoff Play-In
The current postseason format has worked for the most part. But then the West became so much better than the East. A guide to NBA conferences by bwin details how the balance of power shifted to the Western Conference after LeBron James took his talents to LA. With Kawhi Leonard now with the Los Angeles Clippers, the already loaded West has become even more formidable.
In order to expand the playoffs, and make them more balanced, there is discussion of a playoff play-in. A Yahoo! Sports article on this proposed rule change discusses how the playoff play-in will be a mini-playoff of sorts, as the 7th and 8th placed teams and the 9th and 10th placed teams will face-off. The winner of the former will be the postseason’s 7th seed. The loser will then play the winner of the latter for the 8th seed. This format change will give teams at the bottom of the standings an incentive to make one final push. It will also give good, young teams like the Sacramento Kings, who have so far been disappointing this season, a greater chance at making the playoffs.
Reseeding the Conference Finalists
Another proposed change is reseeding the conference finalists based on their regular-season records. Such modification is likely to affect who’ll make the NBA Finals, as it could potentially lead to either an All-Eastern or All-Western Conference title series. If the said rule was in place last year, for instance, the conference finals would have seen the Toronto Raptors (58-24) playing the Portland Trailblazers (53-29), and the Golden State Warriors (57-25) facing off against the Philadelphia 76ers (51-31). In such a scenario it’s hard not to envision the Raptors beating the Blazers, and the Sixers topping the Kevin Durant-less Warriors. If approved, this change figures to incentivize teams to win more in the regular season, as reseeding will mean a favorable match-up in the conference finals.
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