The 2014 NBA Playoffs started on April 19th, and ended June 15th. Had the Heat been more competitive instead of getting rolled by the Spurs in five games, the postseason would have lasted a full two months.
All of us here love NBA basketball, so yay, playoff basketball! The problem is that the more you have of something, the less special it becomes. With all of the series being best of 7, and over half the league making the playoffs, there's also an air of inevitably to many of the series, which makes them tedious. The first round especially feels like a grind, with little being decided that wasn't already clear from regular season results.
Anyone watching the NCAA Basketball Tournament now can easily see that the quality of play is much lower than NBA basketball, yet the Tournament generates great excitement and draws a huge audience. There are several reasons for this (Gambling is one of the biggest. Everybody and their grandmother fills out a bracket.), but one of them is the "one and done" format. A team's fortunes come down to one game, sometimes one shot.
The NBA's 7 game series format makes it more likely the best teams will win, but also reduces the excitement, the immediacy, the thrill of it all coming down to 40 minutes of play. I'm not advocating for the NBA to go to "one and done", but I do think the first round can be condensed, the selection of teams more balanced, and the regular season rendered more important by implementing the following system:
- 12 teams make the playoffs rather than 16.
- The 12 teams are those with the 12 best records, regardless of conference.
- Teams with the top 4 records in the league earn a first round bye.
- Seeds 5-12 play 5 game series for the right to advance to play the top 4 in round 2.
- First round 5 game series will be #5 vs. #12, #6 vs. #11, and so on.
5 game series in the first round will make that round more intense and focused. Teams won't be able to slip up with only three losses to elimination. Also, a briefer first round will mean the bye teams have time to rest, but not so much idle time that it should throw them out of rhythm.