Let me introduce you to the "PICK-ONS", Playoffs v2.0. Pick-ons would be set up like a reverse-lottery. Top seed chooses their first opponent from playoff eligible teams in their conference. Next highest eligible seed chooses their opponent from the remaining eligible teams in their conference, and so on....
So the number one seed can choose among the #8 seed with the crappiest record, the #4 seed who they just own, or the #2 seed who just suffered an injury to their superstar. The number one seed can create the easiest path to the finals by picking-on (hence the name) the easiest opponents. Higher seed gets home court advantage.
On the other side of the coin, first picked-on team has an extra chip on their shoulder because someone called them the weakest team. You don't think the person who was picked on last for team sports during grade school PE remembers? Every playoff picked-on team takes it more personally.
- More competition for top seeds during regular season.
- First seed means more than just having the 7th game in a series on your home court (like Miami and Indiana 2013-2014).
- The selection of opponents can be made into a TV show and opens up a whole new late season discussion of "Who will "insert team" pick-on?"
- Removes the "losing on purpose to face a particular, though higher seeded, team" strategy. This is rare but it does happen when there is a particularly bad division winner or a freak injury at end of season.
- Not as much competition during regular season for lower seeded teams. The difference between 5th and 8th really doesn't matter as much.
- More potential for conspiracy theory.
- Still have to figure out the logistics for later rounds. This Pick-off idea works a lot better for (American) football playoffs when everyone finishes their game on the same weekend.