Cohen: A Playoff Proposal

By Josh Cohen
April 17, 2012


ORLANDO -- It dawned on me the other day that it may be more justifiable to ignore “playoff seeding” and instead allow deserving teams to choose who they want to play in the postseason.

The best way to explain this proposal is through an example:

Okay, so the Chicago Bulls are likely to be the “No. 1 seed” in the Eastern Conference playoffs this season. They will be “required” to square off against whoever the No. 8 seed is (probably either New York, Philadelphia or Milwaukee).

However, wouldn’t it be more rational for the Bulls, who have earned the right to be in the most favorable position possible in the playoffs, to decide which opponent they desire to play?

Let’s say, hypothetically, the Knicks slide in as the “No. 8” seed. Some could argue that New York is a more competent team than three or four other East playoff squads. Yet, Chicago, in spite of having the best record in the conference, is forced into a far more intricate series than teams seeded lower than it.

My concept would be to have a draft-imitation in which in the top three teams of each conference pick who they want to play in the First Round of the playoffs.

It would go something like this:

With the first choice of the 2012 NBA Playoff Matchup Selection Process, the Chicago Bulls choose to play…the Philadelphia 76ers.

With the second choice of the 2012 NBA Playoff Matchup Selection Process, the Miami Heat choose to play…the Atlanta Hawks.

With the third choice of the 2012 NBA Playoff Matchup Selection Process, the Indiana Pacers choose to play…the New York Knicks.

By default, the Boston Celtics will play the Orlando Magic.

The same method would then ensue prior to the conference semifinals.

It just seems with the current playoff model that in some instances it’s more beneficial to lose games in the final week of the season for the purpose of having a more favorable playoff matchup.

For example, the Hawks and Magic are essentially battling for the No. 5 seed in the postseason. But in all truth, wouldn’t the No. 6 seed, or in other words a probable collision with the Pacers, be more auspicious than a confrontation with the Celtics, who are sitting comfortably as the No. 4 seed?

Or, similarly, wouldn’t being the No. 2 seed in the East be more advantageous than being the No. 1? Assuming Indiana hangs on to the No. 3 spot and Boston No. 4, the No. 1 seed (currently the Bulls) would have to play the Celtics in the Second Round, while the Heat would be in a more fortunate position to play the Pacers. This is, of course, if the top four seeds advance.

My proposal would eliminate all this ambiguity. Teams with better records would have more control over their destiny. Along with home-court advantage, which undeniably is critical in the NBA, this conception would be another huge benefit to teams that flourished during the regular season.

Another intriguing amendment would be to permit the “higher seed” to decide the format of a playoff series.

Currently, the first three rounds of the playoffs are set at 2-2-1-1-1 (higher seed is home in Games 1, 2, 5 and 7), while the NBA Finals is 2-3-2 (higher seed is home in Games 1, 2, 6 and 7).

But it would be more gainful for teams that deserve as many advantages as possible to determine when they are home and when they are on the road.

For example, if the Bulls and Knicks play in the First Round of the playoffs, Chicago should be able to select which home-away arrangement they think is best for them.

Naturally, there would have to be some moderation considering travel unfeasibility. Let’s say, however, for the purpose of theory that the Bulls can choose to be home the first three games of the series, then be in New York for Games 4, 5 and 6 before hosting a Game 7 if necessary. There could be a variety of combinations that are practical and reasonable.

The playoff system is fine the way it is, of course, but these are just some suggestions to mix it up a bit.

Do you think teams with the better records should be able to choose who they want to play in the playoffs rather than be forced to play teams based on seeding?
Do you think teams with the better records should be able to choose who they want to play in the playoffs rather than be forced to play teams based on seeding?
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