NBA: There’s only one suitable way to change the regular season

NBA commissioner Adam Silver (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
NBA commissioner Adam Silver (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

What is the best way to increase attention and viewership for the NBA regular season?

Adam Silver recently proposed a massive overhaul to the NBA in an attempt to increase ratings during the long-drawn basketball season.

Adam Silver’s plan consists of three new changes to the regular season:

  1. Decrease the number of games played from 82 down to 78.
  2. Start an in-season tournament that would last close to three weeks from the end of November to the middle of December. The tourney would involve all 30 teams, with the winner having to play around 12 total games. Each player on the winning team would receive a $1 million prize.
  3. Finish the regular season with a play-in tournament. The first through sixth seeds in each conference would automatically make the playoffs, while the seventh through 10th seeds in each conference would play in a small tourney for the final two playoff spots in East and West.

Would any of Adam Silver’s proposed changes increase the NBA’s regular-season ratings?

Many factors are contributing to the NBA’s sinking numbers this season:

  • The NFL is back. America has always been a football country, but this season, ratings are soaring for the National Football League, which is cutting into the NBA’s regular-season viewership.
  • The Golden State Warriors went from being a superteam that got vital national ratings last year to the worst team in the NBA this season.
  • The best squad in the Eastern Conference is the small market Milwaukee Bucks. Unfortunately, they don’t garner a lot of national interest.
  • The three most exciting teams in the league – the Lakers, Clippers, and Rockets – all play out west, with typical start times at 10:30 pm on the East Coast, which is too late for most folks on the Atlantic to watch.
  • All professional sports in America are losing viewership due to the plethora of high quality streaming TV shows from Netflix, Apple, Amazon Prime, and so on. Plus, nowadays many people around the world would rather play e-sports than watch the NBA.

A midseason tournament that holds no meaning for the postseason and that runs during the heart of the NFL season won’t increase interest in the NBA.

An end-of-the-season tournament that decides the fates of the seventh through 10th seeds in the Eastern and Western Conferences would be intriguing, but it wouldn’t be meaningful enough to prop up the NBA’s ratings.

No professional sports league across the globe, including the NBA, can compete with the NFL in America, so Adam Silver should stop wasting time and resources fighting a losing battle.

The NBA should create a huge end-of-the regular-season tournament that would take place after the Super Bowl and March Madness when sports fans across the U.S. will focus on basketball.

Here’s the idea:

Decrease the number of regular-season games from 82 down to 78 contests. After every team has played 78 games, the eight squads with the best records automatically make the playoffs. We stop selecting organizations based on their conference. The top eight teams in the NBA make the playoffs. If its six teams from the Western Conference and two squads from the Eastern Conference, so be it. The eight squads with the best regular-season records get seeded one through eight for the postseason.

That means there are 22 teams left that have to secure a playoff spot. The top-14 squads by record automatically make a postseason play-in tournament. Then the other eight teams, have to play in a small pre-qualifying tourney, with the two finalists making it into the postseason play-in tournament as the two lowest seeds.

Here’s how things would look if the regular season were to end today (December 26th).

Automatic Bids into the postseason:

  1. Milwaukee Bucks
  2. Los Angeles Lakers
  3. Boston Celtics
  4. Miami Heat
  5. Denver Nuggets
  6. Los Angeles Clippers
  7. Philadelphia 76ers
  8. Houston Rockets

*The Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, and Toronto Raptors all have identical records of 21-10, so we would then decide who automatically makes the playoffs based on each squad’s point differential. The Houston Rockets have the highest point differential at +5.2, so they’d be the eighth team in.

14 teams that would automatically make the postseason play-in tournament:

  1. Toronto Raptors
  2. Indiana Pacers
  3. Dallas Mavericks
  4. Utah Jazz
  5. Brooklyn Nets
  6. Oklahoma City Thunder
  7. Portland Trailblazers
  8. Orlando Magic
  9. San Antonio Spurs
  10. Sacramento Kings
  11. Phoenix Suns
  12. Charlotte Hornets
  13. Chicago Bulls
  14. Detroit Pistons

The final eight teams that must fight for the last two seeds in the postseason play-in tournament:

  1. Memphis Grizzlies
  2. Minnesota Timberwolves
  3. Washington Wizards
  4. Cleveland Cavaliers
  5. New York Knicks
  6. Atlanta Hawks
  7. New Orleans Pelicans
  8. Golden State Warriors
  • If two or three teams have the same record, the squad with the better point differential will get the higher seeding.

The postseason play-in tournament would be a single-elimination event, similar to the NCAA’s March Madness tourney, with the top eight squads from the 16 team’s postseason play-in tournament making it into the playoffs.  So, the teams in the play-in tournament only have to win their first-round contest to guarantee a spot in the postseason. Then the rest of the tournament is played out to decide on the rest of the postseason seedings, with the two finalists getting the two fifth seeds.

This type of end-of-season tournament has many benefits.

It will allow squads who struggle at the beginning of the year due to injuries to still have a chance at making the playoffs. Think about the New Orleans Pelicans and Warriors this season. Both squads have suffered through significant injuries to their superstars, which has all but eliminated them from the postseason.

However, this new tournament system would give both organizations a chance to make the postseason. Who wouldn’t want to see Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson or Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson battle through the first eight-team pre-qualifying tournament and then the second 16-team play-in tourney just to make the playoffs?

Plus, this new system would discourage many teams from unadulterated tanking, because squads like the Warriors and Pelicans would want to gain chemistry and momentum heading into both postseason tournaments.

This new arrangement would make the trade deadline crazy, which would increase interest in the NBA. Let’s use the Pelicans and Warriors as an example again. During the NBA’s current model for the regular season, neither team has a higher than a five percent chance to make the postseason, but we aren’t even halfway through the year yet.

So, right now, New Orleans and Golden State are both potential sellers at the trade deadline, because both squads are motivated to lose and increase their draft position. But, if each team had a chance to make noise in the playoffs, then both organizations might want to upgrade at the trade deadline instead. The NBA wants as many squads as possible, trying to get better through trades. It increases interest in the regular season.

A big problem with the NBA is that most fans stop investing in their teams if they have a losing record halfway through the year. However, with my proposed end-of-season tournaments, if fans see that their home squad is playing better after the All-Star break and that they still have a chance to make the playoffs.

Then, those same fans that would typically stop watching in January will start to check back as the year winds down.

Diehard fans are going to watch the NBA no matter what. Still, with all of the different options available, it’s almost impossible to get casual fans to tune in to regular-season games consistently. My changes are an acceptance of this. The NBA is gaining momentum abroad. Also, in the U.S., the playoffs are still highly viewed, so the NBA doesn’t have to make drastic alterations to the regular season in November or December.

Adam Silver should understand that casual fans like to watch the postseason, and they love individual storylines. Everyone loves to see a hero. Whether they get to know the hero in a movie or on the basketball court, it doesn’t matter.

These two end-of-the-season tournaments are the type of events that can create heroes. Plus, they’ll produce playoff-type drama during the end of the regular season. Imagine what would happen if Zion Williamson led a 20-58 Pelicans squad into the postseason. Along the way, he averaged 40 points per game and hit two game-winners during the pre-qualifying tourney and postseason play-in tournament. People would go crazy, and the NBA’s ratings would double going into the playoffs.

Next. New York Knicks’ new plan revolves around poaching Karl-Anthony Towns. dark

The NBA must attract more casual fans, and the way to do that is by creating two single-elimination tournaments before the postseason begins.