We’re starting to hear a lot of talk about revising the NBA playoff structure with an eye towards eliminating teams with losing records. One plan that has gotten some recent airtime calls for automatic bids for all division winners, then ten other teams get in based on best won-loss records–that is, overall standings, not conference standings. In this scenario, several more Western Conference teams (10) than Eastern teams (6) would make it in this year.
Having only winners in the playoffs is all well and good, but this plan comes with its own problem: what would you call the two teams that reach the Finals? Not Conference Champion–an imbalanced tournament field would render the conferences irrelevant for the purposes of hanging a banner.
That may seem like a trivial matter, but the next time you pop into an arena near you, take a look at the rafters. A lot of teams–especially those without a wealth of league championships–have an assortment of “almost” banners hanging from those rafters. What happens to those accoutrements if the conferences are legislated out of the playoff picture? Those tokens of achievement, even the near misses, are very much a part of a franchise’s identity, not to mention its marketing. “2015 NBA Finalist” doesn’t have quite the same ring as “2015 Western Conference Champions.”
This may not be a deal breaker, but clearly there a still a few bugs to be worked out here.