Blogtable: Subtraction Of Divisions

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


Down with divisions | Missing in Golden State | Offseason hits and misses


Well, Adam Silver brought it up: Should we do away with divisions?


VIDEO: GameTime discusses Adam Silver’s point about eliminating divisions

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: It’s hard to defend the division format as we’ve come to know it and as it has played out, especially this year. But rolling with big ol’ clumps of 15 teams per conference seems unwieldy to me for what still is the NBA’s meat and potatoes, the regular season. And the hand-wringing over the East this season seems a wee reactionary – this down year is cyclical and flukey, as I see it. How ’bout going the other way and making the divisions mean something, by boosting the number of games played within them? Imagine playing eight games against each division foe (a total of 32) and two against everyone else (50) regardless of conference. I know, that might stink in depriving fans of seeing certain teams and stars come to town more than once. But it would build and enhance rivalries that are so lacking now. So my short answer: No.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: I think this is a made up crisis being fueled so that guys like Jeff Van Gundy can set their nonexistent hair on fire.  The Atlantic Division is horrible.  So what?  These things happen in the NFL, MLB and NHL and the world hasn’t ended in those sports.  The key is basing home-court advantage in each round of the playoffs — regardless of seeding — on regular season records.  Get rid of the divisions?  Fine.  Keep the divisions?  Fine.  I just can’t get that excited about the topic.  Not when there far more important issues — teams taking late season dives to manipulate playoff of match-ups and the draft lottery system, to name two — that need scrutiny.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: I still like divisions. Admittedly, I never look at the standings by division, only by conference, and I snicker at my local newspaper for still running the standings by division. Still, with so many teams, I still like breaking them down into divisions and letting those teams play each other four times each season. Technically, it should foster rivalries, and has, although that doesn’t seem to be the case so much these days. I would, however, be willing to have a discussion about ditching an automatic playoff spot (and especially a top-four seed) for all division winners. If a division winner’s record falls out of the top eight in the conference (or the top four), then let’s stop gifting it a better spot.

NBA Standings as of Dec. 11, 2013

NBA Standings as of Dec. 11, 2013

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Sure, why not. Not a big deal to have them, not a big deal to eliminate them. Divisions give teams and their fans a chance to celebrate winning something and guarantee the champion a top-tier spot in the playoff seedings, but otherwise have no major purpose. The conference format is what really matters. Neighborhood rivalries will live on while other dramatic possibilities (Miami-Indiana, Oklahoma City-Golden State) will continue to build across division lines. Either way, not a big deal to me.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThe existence of divisions isn’t the issue. It’s the automatic top-four seed for division winners that is. You can get rid of that and still have divisions for the sake of organization. (I like organization.) You could also just get rid of them altogether, as long as you seed the top eight teams by record (and subsequent tie-breakers that have nothing to do with winning the division).

Sekou Smith, NBA.comNo. Nope and Absolutely not. I agree that the Eastern Conference standings are painful to look at these days, what with all three of those teams with winning records sitting atop the rest of that wreckage that lies East of the Mississippi River. But a new world order for the NBA standings? No way. What happens in a few years when the wind blows the other way and the Western Conference is on the slide? This current downturn in the Eastern Conference won’t last forever. And last I checked, all that dominance during the regular season hasn’t made a difference in the final outcome of the season, the only outcome that really matters. The West might be the best top to bottom, but the best of the very best still resides in Miami.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com All Ball blog: I say yes, but with a caveat: This seems like a good time to juggle some of the teams in each Conference — can we get Memphis in the Eastern Conference, for instance? As it stands now, the divisions don’t really have an effect on anything except for determining the top three/four slots in playoff seeding. Also, I guess maybe it makes it easier to read the standings? Either way, we’re living in a world that with technology continues to get smaller. We might as well go from six divisions to what would essentially be two. Or if you want to get really radical, let’s just go to one table, with all the teams in one big league, like they do in soccer in Europe. Now that would be interesting.

Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA Greece: Just between you and me, when I was growing up the divisions really confused me. And now I don’t think that getting rid of them will make for a tremendous change. And by that I mean that at the end — after 82 games — the top 16 teams are the best ones to qualify. Everybody has its chance to win. As years pass we see some divisions become stronger or other lose their competitiveness. But there is always a cycle. So, now that I’m older and (finally) got the way they work — why change them now? (ha)

Adriano Albuquerque, NBA Brasil: I’ll vouch for that. The divisions have real meaning in the NFL and MLB, where you have to win it to make the Playoffs and there are few wild card spots; in the NBA, they tried to add meaning by making the division winners top seeds, but it doesn’t mean that much, since the team with the better record will still have home-court advantage. The thing about it, though, is that doing away with the divisions doesn’t solve the problem. You will still have four or five teams in the Eastern Conference postseason that really shouldn’t be there while two or three Western Conference teams find themselves on the outside looking in. I always thought it would eventually even out, and in 2009 or 2010 it really looked like the East was finally getting stronger throughout, but outside of that, it’s been almost 20 years of sizable gap between the West and the East. Maybe keep the conferences for scheduling purposes, but end the dual-Conference Playoff; just make it a 16-team tournament between the 16 best teams. Hey, if jet lag is not a factor anymore and the league can play the Finals in a 2-2-1-1-1 format, why not pit a West Coast team against an East Coast team in the first round as well?

Philipp Dornhegge, NBA Deutschland: I usually am an orderly person, and the division system always helped to be able to maintain a good overview over the league. So this idea of abandoning divisions seemed odd to me at first. But having thought and read about it, this definitely would be the right move. Divisions don’t help the appeal of the league, they don’t fuel rivalries and the travelling can’t be an argument in these days and times. Get rid of them.

42 Comments

  1. Karlo Garcia says:

    We should not do away with divisions. The divisions are there for a reason, divisions are determine which teams qualify for the playoffs & who wins the division. It’s not the divisions that is the problem it’s the teams that make it look bad. Put in consideration about scheduling?. I like the divisions to stay.

  2. djc says:

    I am an avid NBA fan, as am I football (soccer). Though I think the NBA needs to look at penalising teams at the bottom of each conference, e.g relegation zones like there are in pretty much every football league,(except the MLS), there is. Now to where? who knows. But the league needs to have something for the teams to fight for at the bottom, it keeps it interesting at both ends like it does in football, as teams fight for survival. This would surely address Fran’s point about team’s manipulating playoff spots and taking dives for the lottery.

  3. Matt says:

    You will never see a major change in divisions. What are you going to do, put all 30 teams together? It’s not going to happen. A few other points, I’ll give the NBA credit, they know their geography. At least they don’t have Dallas in the East, for instance. Another point, the West has been the dominate conference since about 2000, with maybe one year in which the East won. It’s been going on for a while now, and likely will continue for the next couple years, minimum. The East has too many lousy teams. You can claim the Heat are better than anyone in the West, but due to being in the East, and a lousy division, they have an easier road. Let’s see them play more against the Western powers, I guarantee you they won’t be as good.

  4. Desmond says:

    i like the idea of dropping the divisions and having the playoff be the best 16 in the league today’s technology helps travel so no complaints about travel and fatigue why not have the playoffs an open tournament could you picture indiana vs okc in the first round or lakers vs miami and finally see kobe vs lebron

  5. dd def says:

    i think the league should expand to 32 teams (seattle and somewhere else) and we could have 4 divisions per conference with four teams each. then from there, we could redraw the division lines so they make some kind of sense. i mean, the nw division has ONE northwestern team. the others are midwestern and southwesternish. then you could just take the 4 division winners for the top four seeds, and you really wouldn’t have to do much in the way of adjusting the schedule. keep it at 4 games against each division foe, 2 games against each interconference foe, then split the remaining 38 games among nondivisional conference opponents (roughly 3 games against each).

  6. Who was the worst record to win a division? says:

    I wonder who was the worst record to win a division and get into the playoffs in NBA history? I did some research but couldn’t find an answer.

    Also there are a lot of good ideas in this discussion. As Lang Whitaker said going to a system where the 16 best teams playing in the playoffs sounds really cool to me, regardless of the current lackluster east, I think it would make the league more competitive. there was also a comment about timezones which is interesting.

    Bottom line, change is good and healthy for evolution of this game that we love and the division don’t make much sense as they are organized right now anyway

  7. lcorlan says:

    I like Adriano Albuquerque commentary. Let the best 16 teams qualify for the playoffs, and you will reward the value and have competition. What is the reason, for example, to have a team like Bucks play last year in the playoffs and suffer against Miami?

  8. Edgar Campos says:

    I say we do it NCAA style in just make a big bracket of the top 16 teams in the league with the best record and let them play it out to see who is the best. Im tired of seeing good teams in the western conference not making to teams in the east that sometimes dont even make .500 record. Seed the top 16 and let them play, works in soccer and that way only the best teams play.

  9. Jim Muncy says:

    After having read all of this (including all the comments), I haven’t read a compelling reason to keep the divisions. I don’t think NBA level players or fans get too excited about winning a division (this isn’t high school). I think rivalries will still be there with or without divisions. Though the overall response seems to be to keep the divisions, I think it is just because we like to do things the way they have always been done. What if the NBA were currently structured only by conferences and people were trying to make the argument to go to add an additional layer and call them divisions? My guess is that the majority of people would be against that and I cannot think of a lot of arguments people in favor of divisions could make. So let’s take this one step at a time. How about on NBA.com we set the default for displaying standing as Conferences rather than Divisions. After all, I bet that’s what most people look at anyway.

  10. John says:

    I agree with John Schumann – don’t give automatic seeds for division winners.

  11. Leeroy says:

    I agree with Adriano Albuquerque. I hate what the NHL did when they went to 8 games against division opponents. Boring. Especially if the teams in your division are terrible. Best 16 teams should make the playoffs, regardless of East/West.

  12. Pokarulz says:

    I am from Austria/Europe and we have a pretty interesting playoff system: The team which finsishes first gets to pick its oponent for the first round, then the 2nd team chooses its oponent and so on…

    Let’s look at the scenario (from last years playoffs): 1: Miami 2: New York 3: Indiana 4: Brooklyn 5:Chicago 6: Atlanta 7: Boston 8: Milwaukee
    In this case Miami could decide to play any of the 7 teams, then it would be New York’s turn to choose any of the remaining teams (if Miami would pick New York, Indiana would be automaticly the next team to choose an opponent) and so on.

    This would create excitement for the media to talk about the decisions the teams make (have they been right/wrong and also add value to better seeds.I think this could also lead to rivalries, if a team decides to pick another team more often. Imagine for example Miami would have picked Indiana in the first round, wouldn’t that be exciting…of course the odds that they would do this are pretty low.

    This system could also be adopted in both converences. Let’s say the best 8 EC and the best 8 WC confernce teams qualify for the playoffs. Then the teams can pick there opponent, starting from the best record – it would still be easier to qualify in the east but teams from the western conference could also choose weaker ec teams and so it would probably get balanced out troughout the playoffs. Maybe Miami would have still choosen Milwaukee in the first round but then the team with the second best record (Oklahoma last year) would have taken Boston…i think the idea that teams pik their opponant is really exciting.

    I personally would be in favor of putting the best 16 teams into the playoffs and then play it out. Nowadays travelling shouldn’t be an issue and if it matters a team could still pick a opponent close to their town for the first round. What do you think?

  13. theaandthea says:

    division no… multiplication ! HAHAHAHAHahahaha

  14. look at his head !!!! says:

    Away from divisions look at adams HEAD !!!!!!

  15. Ma'lik says:

    i think they should change the whole and have a north and south conference with okc and the grizzlies being the dividing line

  16. Marco29 says:

    Divisions are not the issue. Only the 16 best teams accross the league should qualify. Also, home court advantage in the Finals should be defined otherwise (currently it is too unfair for the western teams): champion of the conference that qualifies most teams, conference that won the All star game, nutral ground… could be solutions that IMO are all better than the current one. So many things could be changed. M. silver has some work in front of him

  17. Just Blaze says:

    I agree with Albuquerquie. The league should make it a 16 team playoff bracket consisting of the best 16 teams regardless of conference. I wouldn’t mind seeing Miami vs Lakers, or San Antonio vs the Bulls.

    • John says:

      I’d like to see something similar, but perhaps the best 16 teams and then randomly put into different pools/groups. You could end up having finals where San Antonio play OKC or Miami v Pacers.

  18. Tomahawk Jones says:

    Two things:

    1. For the playoffs, I think they should take the six division winners (regardless of record) and the remaining 10 with the best records and seed them strictly by their record (thereby doing away with the conference alignment for the postseason), AND…

    2. I know it seems like Memphis should be in the East because of how far east the state of Tennessee extends, but the city itself is on the western border with Arkansas and is actually located farther west than any Eastern Conference team; it is in the correct conference geographically (and so is New Orleans by the way).

  19. dirk45 says:

    Have the East 7 and 8 play against the West 9 and 10 and vice versa. The winner is placed into the conference tree of place 7 and 8. Make the qualifier best of 3 and the first round best of 5. So you wouldn’t expand the schedule while solving an imbalance between the conferences.

  20. Michael says:

    I like Adriano Albuquerque’s idea. A Spurs-Thunder or Heat-Pacers Finals would be cool. The two best teams should have the opportunity to make the Finals, regardless of where their home town is. And maybe if we had 12 west teams and only 4 east teams in the Playoffs it would force the east to improve faster.

  21. Reinhardt Schuhmann says:

    A major reason divisions exist in sports is the logistics of travel. Big budgets and increased access to flights have made this less of a concern, but playing more division games as Steve Aschburner suggests is a responsible idea. Less travel means the league has a smaller environmental impact and players are less drained throughout the season. Also, this could foster stronger local/regional ties among NBA pros and the fans.

  22. J WU says:

    Get 2 new teams in WEST conference ( 1 in Seattle for sure!) and move Memphis and New Orleans to the EAST.

    Or some owners of the Atlantic division should sell their teams to the WEST.

  23. Stu says:

    Keep the divisions. I don’t believe it has any impact on the Finals as this is always played by one of the best out of each conference regardless of whether or not a weak opponent sneaks into the playoffs and keeping divisions makes for more relevant regular season match ups.

  24. LAKERSLAKERSLAKERS says:

    they are going to keep it that way so miami is well rested and gets an easy trip to the finals every year

  25. joanneemery says:

    Keep the division so it doesn’t mess up schedules but minimizes their importance meaning although a team might win a division title it doesn’t necessarily mean they earn a spot in the in the playoffs. The only time I division title has meaning is when two teams from different divisions are tied at the end of a shortened season where teams might have only played each other twice. In that instance alone the division title holder would take presidence of the playoff vacant playoff spot!

  26. jty7271 says:

    Keep divisions, just consolidate from 6 to 4. Two divisions in each conference, instead of three. Wasn’t that the way it used to be?

  27. jty7271 says:

    Keep the divisions but just consolidate a little. Go from 3 in each conference to 2. So 4 divisions total instead of 6. Wasn’t that the way it used to be?

  28. Travelling not being an issue anymore, how about one united league, where top sixteeen teams go to playoffs. As far as choosing for a better spot, adjusting record to avoid stronger enemies, I would say, how about top 8 teams, would have to pick from rest of 8 teams who to play against, so you would add uncertainty which would make bottom eight teams in upper 8 and lower 8 playoff spot compete more.

  29. hellon says:

    Personally,I don’t care so much about divisions,but when a team with weak record under .500(hello Eastern conf.) can make the playoffs just because it is a division leader or there are so many teams with record that lame…I think taht the playoffs should contain 16 best teams,regardless if it is Eastern or Western conf.

  30. chalice says:

    In my humble opinion, the east started to get weaker with Micheal Jordan winning his first title. The reason for me is that you had to get through the Bulls to get to the NBA finals so if you’re very competetive, you go to the west where you dont have to see MJ until the finals. Once MJ left, the east was getting better as the east was the easiest route to the finals. Now, LBJ and company own the east with Indiana crashing the party. You have to go through either of those two teams to make the finals. Other than Spurs and maybe OKC (I’m not sold on Portland), there is noone in the west i fear more than Miami and Indiana. Next year, I think a lot of players in the west (especially those who don’t make the playoffs) will try to go to the east as making the playoffs is so much easier. What’s the point of playing in the west if you can’t even make the playoffs? Bottom line, it will even itself out.

    • Jay says:

      The point is in basketball, upsets happen. This leads to have a more competitive east finals rather than a steamroll of the top 2 teams

    • Hoidiho says:

      Chalice, you nailed it!
      At least after some time, an inbalance this lopsided cant last long. So let the nature we created (nba) do her thing.

      Besides, there’s a few site notes:
      – its not a bad thing to be a playoff-competitive team in a strong conference and miss it, with a winning record. Disappointing, yes, for the fans, they will bark, BUT: with a little lottery luck you can give yourself a boost without beeing so bad of a team that you have to rely 100% on a rookie next season. Minnesotta did this, unfortunately Derrick Williams didnt pan out for them, just an example there might be better ones.
      – Who said that playoff series in a bad conference cant be a great feat of entertainment? I would love to see a series between 2 young teams – lets say philly vs. boston. sure, they wouldnt be as “good” as some of the cold blooded super effective dinosaurs out west, but they would deliver a dogfight. Why do we watch college again?
      – Life isnt always fair, but if the players would feel treated bad they CAN at least do something about it – change conference! there have been worse reasons for demanding a trade all over the league. Just saying

    • PetrGSW says:

      Im not old enough to know if nba was more even before MJ, but he has been gone for a while and the gap seems to be opening, not closing. So I doubt, that It will even out anytime soon. Hope Im wrong because It would be much more interesting…

    • artifex says:

      Honestly, I’m not sold on this theory.
      Based on that: Who did change from East to West to get into the “easier” conference?
      I’d find Barkley PHI>>PHO, Shaq ORL>>LAL… then I’m getting lost.

      lets look at the notable All Stars of 1990-1995):
      Bird+McHale BOS, Thomas+Dumars DET, Ewing NY, Reggie IND, Nique ATL, Price/Nance/Brad CLE: all stayed
      LarryJ CHA>>NYK, Coleman NJ>>PHI>>CHA: stayed in East
      PennyH and JStarks switched Conf in 99 (after MJ)

      besides Barkley and Shaq: Schrempf IND>>SEA

      interesting:
      Robert Parish BOS>>CHA>>CHI and Rodman DET>>SAS>>CHI: they JOINED MJ in 1996

      others mostly can’t decide but are rather transfered (anyone got time enough to look at all free agents going west in 90s?)
      So, to me the franchise, the market and the weather are the dominant factors, no matter of east/west.

      Notably, Tim Hardaway GSW>>MIA, Mutombo DEN>>ATL, Majerle PHO>>MIA, Kemp SEA>>CLE went to the east in the 90s…

  31. justsayin says:

    Aw, h@$! no. The league is dumping on tradition too much already letting teams play in freaking t-shirts that make the game look like it’s being played at the local rec center. This just more change for its own sake and makes me wonder where the game is headed under Silver… How long before popular-in-the-moment changes turn the greatest sport into Ultimate Frisbee?

    /Now get off of my lawn!
    //And yes MEM to the EC where it belongs please

  32. MarkDLentz says:

    The greater issue is getting rid of SMALL divisions. If you had larger divisions (of 7 and 8 teams) teams could be grouped predominantly by time zone. This would be a boon to central time zoned teams in the WC that have to play too many road games two time zones away on Pacific time.

    Look at what the NHL did, NBA. It’s pretty simple, really.

    Look, put the 4 California teams, Portland, Phoenix, Utah and Denver in one division.

    Put Minnesota, OKC, Texas teams, Memphis, New Orleans in another division.

    Split up the current EC teams however you like.

    Play teams outside of your division home and away.

    Easy peasy.

  33. Harold Mangum says:

    I feel divisions are fine, but should be updated.

    • artifex says:

      Don’t know on what this should be based on (and how long it should last).
      There havew been a few mixtures due to expansion, that’s OK. But it’s not far fetched to me that Boston can rebuild and get strong again, Philly with a good lotery pick next year can get very good, and NY is always attractive and maybe can land a both-ends star… and in say 5 years 3 Atlantic Division teams are NBA top 10…

      To me the divisions are for once to reduce travel, And I disagree with Philip Dornhegge here. Sure, it’s easy to get from Boston to LA in a few hours. Still, what I hear is that it’s also demanding for the players (and not very environmentally friendly either).
      Also, the top4 protection makes sure, that one team from each region gets into the playoffs, similar to the NCAA regions, so divisions make mostly sense for this lopsided years.
      And for the Atlantic (only 2.5 games from Bos to NY) increases the incentive to win games rather than to tank (which is definitvely positive, too).

      Is it unfair that Pelicans and Grizz are closer to most SE cities that SW? Maybe! But imagining, TD, Parker, Ginobili, Dirk, Matrix finishing in 2,3 years they can become the no.2,3 besides Houston (can’t deny they have a bright future).

    • AM says:

      Yes, the only worthy change would be not letting a division leader get an automatic top 4 spot. That’s the only flaw I see with this current sistem.