NBA proposes major changes with postseason play-ins and reseeding

Lebron James and Anthony Davis playing for the LA Lakers
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Ricky Dimon

NBA

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

The NBA season—and specifically the playoffs—are in line to look a lot different starting in 2021-22. That’s when postseason play-in games as well as reseeding prior to what used to be conference semifinals could be the new norm. Commissioner Adam Silver and the rest of the NBA higher-ups are currently in discussions with the National Basketball Players Association to potentially make those changes become a reality.

Under the current proposal, in each conference there would be three play-in games among four teams to determine the last two postseason spots. After traditional conference playoffs reduce the number of teams remaining to four, reseeding would take place such that the top remaining seed would meet the worst remaining seed while No. 2 would face No. 3 in a virtual semifinal lineup, regardless of conference affiliation.

If it ended now

Here is how things would look if the 2019-20 season ended today and the proposed changes were already in place.

Eastern Conference

One-game playoff for the No. 7 seed:

(7) Brooklyn Nets vs. (8) Orlando Magic

Elimination game:

(9) Washington Wizards vs. (10) Charlotte Hornets

One-game playoff for the No. 8 seed:

WAS/CHA winner at BRK/ORL winner

Western Conference

One-game playoff for the No. 7 seed:

(7) Phoenix Suns vs. (8) Minnesota Timberwolves

Elimination game:

(9) Sacramento Kings vs. (10) New Orleans Pelicans

One-game playoff for the No. 8 seed:

SAC/NO winner at PHX/MIN loser

NBA semifinals (if the top two seeds in each conference advance)

(1) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (4) Boston Celtics

(2) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (3) Denver Nuggets

Of course, the season does not end today. Things will be different by the time April rolls around; heck, they might even be different in a matter of hours. The Suns (at Denver) and Pelicans (at the Clippers), who are currently on the playoff brink, are both big underdogs on Sunday. Check out our free NBA predictions for those games.

Reaction

Do you like the proposed changes? Dislike them? An additional midseason tournament involving all 30 teams sounds utterly bizarre, but you have to say the play-in games sound intriguing; right? Reseeding would probably have its fair share of supporters and haters, but if nothing else it would at least give us the best chance of having the two best teams collide in the NBA Finals.
“I (just) want to get to the playoffs…. I just want to taste it,’’ said Bulls guard Zach LaVine, who hit a three-pointer with 0.8 seconds left to cap off a wild comeback against Charlotte on Saturday. “[The changes don’t] matter. At this point, just let me get in there.’’

“I don’t care,” added San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich, who added that reducing seasons from 82 to 78 games could prolong careers. “Whatever they do, they do. I have bigger fish to fry. Mr. Silver will work at that stuff and do his best job with all his colleagues. And I will offer no advice because they’re a lot smarter than me. And I don’t want any out of bounds plays from him.”

It’s understandable that players and coaches don’t care too much. They have to get the job done on the court regardless of the format. The question is how much it would impact—positively or negatively—the league and its fans.

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