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.
Well, Adam Silver brought it up: Should we do away with 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.
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.com: The 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.com: No. 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.