By Dima Kulakov
This year, the NBA has seen a sharp decrease of as much as 20% in regular-season television viewers. Because of this, the commissioner, Adam Silver, has proposed several changes to the current NBA schedule to make the league better for players, teams, and viewers.
- 30 Team in-season tournament.
The proposed 30 team in-season tournament is widely regarded as the biggest change proposed to the current NBA schedule. This proposed tournament would begin at around U.S. Thanksgiving and continue into December. First, teams would compete in regularly scheduled ‘pool play’ games. Based on the results of those games, 8 top teams would be selected to play quarterfinal, semifinal, and final rounds. Unlike the NBA playoffs, in which teams compete in best of seven-game rounds, each round of the newly proposed tournament consists of only a single game.
- $1,000,000 per player prize pool for tournament winners.
- Breaks up the long regular season for fans.
- Give non-contenders the opportunity to win a meaningful prize.
- Changed schedule means venues can not be used for other sports/activities causing complications.
- Complications with sponsorships, TV scheduling and contracts, etc.
- Owners concerned about loss of money because of fewer home games.
- Players reportedly ‘ have extreme reservations about such a significant change to the NBA schedule.’
- For ‘stars,’ especially those on teams preparing for deep playoff runs, they may choose to focus on the playoffs rather than this.
- Play-in for 7th and 8th Seeds:
This proposed change is, itself, another small tournament that is played before the playoffs at the end of the NBA season. The 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th place teams from each conference (after the regular season) would compete in a set of games that would decide who moves on as the 7th and 8th seeds in the playoffs. The first game would take place between the 7th and 8th place teams. The winner of this game would advance into the playoffs as the seventh seed. The next game would be between the 9th and 10th place teams. The winner of this game would play the loser of the 7th/8th game. The winner of this final game would advance to the playoffs as the 8th seed.
- Chance for worse performing teams in the regular season to have a chance to compete in the playoffs.
- More cities, fans, organizations, players, etc. engaged in the season.
- Reason for 9th + place teams to continue competing late in the season (minimizes tanking)
- Devalues the regular season, as the seventh and eighth seeds must do extra work to claim playoff spots they had earned throughout the regular season – should six-months of work really be overshadowed by two make-or-break contests?
- Reseeding of Conference Finalists:
Once the playoffs reach the semifinals, the remaining four teams would be ‘reseeded.’ This means that these four teams would be reseeded by their regular-season records, not just within the other semi-finalist from their conference, but all of the remaining finalists. Once reseeded, the highest seed would play the lowest seed, and the middle twp seeds would play in the two semifinal games, no matter the teams’ conferences.
- Allows for the best possible finals matchup.
- Historically, the Western conference is much stronger than the Eastern conference, so this format will allow for 2 West teams to play in the finals.
- No more West-vs.-East tradition.
- Potentially worse for fans of one conference.
- Some teams have easier schedules, so they could be seeded higher without merit.
Overall, these changes have the potential to transform the league positively. The tournament and 7/8 seed playoff both deter tanking and ‘load management,’ both reasons for the decline in NBA views. Currently, big market teams might choose to employ ‘load management’ tactics, benching their best players when they have no chance of making the playoffs. For example, last year, the Los Angeles Lakers benched LeBron James once they had no chance of moving into 8th place in the Western Conference standings. With these changes, however, teams have motivation to continue competing and playing their best players, overall raising the number of viewers of all games, especially in big market cities. The reseeding of conference finalists in the playoffs, though, has the potential to ruin the East-West rivalry, can create much more competitive matchups. A great example of this was the 2018 finals. The Houston Rockets were able to take the Golden State Warriors (the eventual champions) to a deciding 7th game in the conference finals, while the Warriors swept the Cleveland Cavaliers in the finals. With this new reseeding, however, the Rockets would have played the Warriors in the finals – a much better matchup than the Warriors vs. the Cavs. This would have also raised views and ratings.
Ultimately, the NBA would have to receive approval, meaning a 2/3 vote from the NBA Teams in favour of these changes, before a Board of Governors meeting in April for them to be implemented for next season.