LOS ANGELES — NBA commissioner Adam Silver floated the possibility of a modified playoff seeding system Saturday that could pit the league’s best two teams against each other in the Finals without changing the number of teams from each conference that make the postseason.
Because of a recent history of imbalance between the Eastern Conference and Western Conference, there have been some calls to take the best 16 teams per season, regardless of conference. In his annual All-Star Saturday news conference, Silver hinted at a compromise.
Silver said his concept would keep the best eight teams from each conference in the playoffs, but would seed those teams 1-16. In that scenario, if the top two teams were from the same conference, it would set up a possible Finals meeting.
“You also would like to have a format where your two best teams are ultimately going to meet in the Finals,” Silver said. “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.”
As has been the case with other 1-16 seeding proposals, there is the issue of travel. With the current playoff format of 2-2-1-1-1 in all rounds, a long first- or second-round series between teams on opposite coasts would create an unfavorable situation. It would also require a more balanced schedule so certain teams didn’t have an advantage in playoff qualification during the regular season.
“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,” Silver said. “Maybe air travel will get better. All things we’ll keep looking at.”
Getting that type of change would require 20 of the 30 teams to vote for it. That is a stumbling block that made the idea of changing to a playoff bracket including the top 16 teams, regardless of conference, unlikely, as five Eastern owners would have to vote for it. This concept would still allow for an East-West balance in postseason representation. It would also not require a rebalancing of the schedule.
At this point it is just conceptual; there are no plans for a vote. However, it is the furthest Silver has gone in altering the postseason format since becoming commissioner.
“That is something that’s gotten serious attention — not just recently, but over the last few years at the league office,” Silver said.