One of the most annoying aspects of the NBA playoff system is the fact that a team in one conference can fail to make the playoffs, despite having a record allowing it to have home court advantage in the other.
The answer: Sudden Death playoffs. It would work this way:
- an Eight team single game playoff, with the teams finishing 7,8,9 & 10th in their conference play the same teams from the other.
- Make it seeded, so team 7 from the West plays team 10 from the East, 8 & 9 play each other, etc....
- Teams 7 & 8 have home court.
- The winner of the playoff game takes the place of the 7th or 8th team in whichever conference.. For example, if these playoffs were held today, Golden State would play Chicago, in Chicago. If GS won the game, they'd be the 7th seed in the East.
This scheme would have a number of advantages:
- Home court advantage is still kept by the teams at the 7th & 8th position in their conferences, so all other thing being equal, they have a better than fair chance to go through to the real playoffs.
- Seeding rewards regular season achievement. The chances of a 7th seed beating the 10th from the other conference are still pretty good, particularly with home court.
- It would allow the strongest teams to be in the playoffs.
- It would keep the conference race interesting for longer, since teams are now jockeying for 6th, instead of just 8th.
- It helps set up the playoffs with a single day event, and with a single game, upsets are possible.
- Fewer teams would tank their seasons, because they'd have a decent opportunity to make the playoffs at the 9th & 10th spot in the conference table.
- Even if they win in Sudden Death, the 9th & 10th teams still have to play the strongest teams in the other conference in the real playoffs, just like they would in their own, which doesn't make this a shortcut to a deep playoff run.