Wednesday, June 13, 2007

How to fix the Finals

I never thought I'd say this in my life as an NBA fan.... but I just wish the season would end. I don't care who wins anymore, I hate both teams equally, I just want this awful display of basketball to be over.

The playoff system is flawed. Granted, we've never been in a situation in my lifetime where the talent level was so drastically different between Conferences, but it has become ridiculously one-sided. Think of it this way, if the Cavs were in the Western Conference, playing against a Western Conference schedule for an entire season, would they even make the playoffs? Probably they would. But in the West it's doubtful that they are mcuh better than a team like the Lakers. I could see them ending up with a 6-8 seed and losing handily in the first round to the Suns, Spurs, or Mavericks.

In fact, if you go back to the end of the regular season, where do you think the Cavs ranked in the top teams in the NBA? ESPN had them at no. 12 , had them at no. 7, and John Hollinger had them at no. 8. I would argue with the last two rankings that both the Jazz and Nuggets are better teams than the Cavs. An arugment could be made for the Warriors also.

And now with Oden and Durant most likely headed to the Western Conference as well, it's not too far-fetched to believe that in a few years the best 10 teams in the NBA could all be in the Western Conference. So that would mean that two of the best 10 teams wouldn't make the playoff field of 16, theoretically.

So how do we fix it. There are a couple of ways that I think will work.

1. Seeding all the playoff teams 1-16 by regular season record, disregarding Conference. This would mean that Division and Conference championships would only be for a banner to hang from the rafters and mean little else. But it is probably the most fair way of determining seedings. Using this format, here's how the first round of the playoffs would have looked:

1. Dallas vs. 16. Orlando
2. Phoenix vs. 15. Washington
3. S.A. vs. 14. New Jersey
4. Detroit vs. 13. Golden State
5. Houston vs. 12. LA Lakers
6. Utah vs. 11. Miami
7. Cleveland vs. 10. Denver
8. Chicago vs. 9. Toronto

With this format the 7-10 seed games would be pretty exciting. Denver vs. Cleveland in the first round? Lebron vs. Carmelo? Tell me the NBA wouldn't love that. Potential second round matchups would be Dallas vs. Chicago, Phoenix vs. Denver/Cleveland, S.A. vs. Utah, and Detroit vs. Houston. This could lead up to a Final Four with all Western Conference teams, but so what? The West is obviously the stronger Conference and wouldn't you want the best teams in the league playing each other at the end of the season? I really like this idea.

2. John Hollinger suggested having inter-conference games in the first round. He recommends leaving the seedings the same, but to have the 1 seed from the West play the 8 seed from the East, and vice versa. This way, the regular season and Division / Conference titles still mean something, but you could potentially eliminate some of the weaker Eastern Conference teams earlier.

"East" Half
(1E) Detroit vs. (8W) Golden State
(4W) Utah vs. (5E) Chicago
(2W) Phoenix vs. (7E) Washington
(3E) Toronto vs. (6W) Denver

"West" Half
(1W) Dallas vs. (8E) Orlando
(4E) Miami vs. (5W) Houston
(2E) Cleveland vs. (7W) L.A. Lakers
(3W) San Antonio vs. (6E) New Jersey

In this format you would have this years NBA Finals teams (SA and the Cavs) playing in the 2nd round. You'd also have an exciting Suns vs. Nuggets 2nd round matchup, a Texas showdown between Dallas and Houston, and most likely a Detroit vs. Chicago 2nd round series. Although that Jazz vs. Chicago first round series would be pretty even. This is probably the better of the two ideas, since it leaves some meaning in the Conference and Division titles.

The bottom line is that something needs to be done. When the series that everyone considers the "real championship" happens in the second round, then things aren't working the way they are supposed to.

I love NBA basketball, and I have hated the last two rounds. And this is when it's supposed to get good! To let you know how bad last night's game was, I switched the channel to watch the US soccer team play El Salvador. And you know what? It was more fun to watch than the Spurs / Cavs game. I think that they actually scored more in the soccer game while I was watching (a 4-0 hammering by the US). That got me thinking. What are some more things that I would have rather watched than last nights basketball game?

- A baseball game.
- The movie Gigli.
- A hot dog eating contest.
- The Gary Coleman CashCall commercial. All of them over and over.
- The Gilmore Girls DVD.
- Flavor of Love Charm School.
- Road House for the 754th time.

You get the picture.