Friday, February 15, 2008

Why is the NBA Rewarding Mediocrity?

We've reached the NBA's All-Star break and moreso than ever, one thing is alarmingly clear: the best teams are almost ALL in the Western Conference. At 33-21, the Orlando Magic has the third best record in the Eastern Conference. You know where a 33-21 record would get you in the West? How about a 10th seed and OUT OF THE PLAYOFFS! New Orleans, Phoenix, the Lakers, Utah, San Antonio, Dallas, Golden State, Houston and Denver all better the .611 winning percentage that the Magic have posted to this point. The latter three teams all have a 32-20 record and as a result, one of these teams with a .615 winning percentage would MISS THE PLAYOFFS if they were held today. Conversely, the New Jersey Nets and Philadelphia 76ers with their 23-30 records are tied for the seventh and eighth playoff spots. Yes, TWO teams with .434 winning percentages would make the playoffs if the season were to end today! Am I the only one that has a problem with this scenario?

Last year only one team with a below .500 record (Orlando at 40-42) made the playoffs. However, several other very mediocre teams (Washington, New Jersey, the Lakers and Golden State) made it into the 2007 postseason. Those four teams were a combined four games over .500! The 2006 playoffs featured four teams with records that were two games over .500 or worse... 2005 thankfully produced only one such team (New Jersey). In 2004, five such teams made the playoffs including one (Boston) with a 36-46 record!

This all begs to ask two questions: Why does the NBA continue to reward teams that have played just mediocre basketball the whole year with post-season berths? Given the current balance of power, some good teams in the Western conference are going to be left out in the cold come May, and this just isn't fair. You play .600+ ball and don't even make the playoffs, while your counterpart in the Eastern Conference is sitting pretty with their .450 winning percentage??? NBA Commissioner David Stern really should look into revamping the current playoff system - the current one is in SERIOUS need of repair! I have a couple of suggestions: The first would be realignment of the divisions - make it more like the AFC and NFC in football where the teams are more evenly distributed in their respective conferences. Secondly, I would cut the number of teams making the playoffs every year from the current 16 to maybe 12. Doing the above two things would virtually eliminate all of the mediocre, near-.500 teams from making the playoffs.



Larry said...

One big problem with your theory here. You want to cut the playoffs team down. You would miss out on some of the great upsets of all time. You wouldnt have had Golden State beating Dallas last yr. Which was one of the biggest upsets in NBA history.

John C said...


That's not the point though? Why reward mediocrity with a playoff berth? Do .500 teams in baseball make the playoffs? No. In football? Only once in a blue moon. The NBA is the only of the three major sports where so-so teams weasel their way into the playoffs year after year. Golden State upset Dallas last year, but what did they do in the next round? I would much rather see deserving teams make the playoffs than see an undeserving 42-40 team squeak in an pull an upset, wouldn't you? You're supposed to be GOOD to make the playoffs, not merely average.