The NBA is moving forward with its plans of tweaking the playoff seeding, and will likely approve a change that makes divisions, or at least division titles, meaningless, as seeding for the playoffs in both conferences will be based on the eight teams with the best record, regardless of division titles.
Last season the Portland Trail Blazers, winning the Northwest division, were seeded fourth despite their record placing them at sixth, which meant they played the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round who had a better record than them and had home court advantage.
While the chances of a division winner not being part of the best eight teams is small, the NBA will be going ahead with the plan of not promising anything to a division winner, which means it’s absolutely meaningless to win a division or actually being in one.
This is one step towards another change many are hoping for: Seeding the top 16 teams in the league by overall record, and not just by conference. That might be harder to pull because the current climate being very West > East. It’s not just about travel, which is an overrated factor (the Warriors played in Houston, Memphis and New Orleans, all closer to the Eastern teams in the 2015 playoffs), but about market sizes.
If the 2015 playoffs would have been seeded by taking the best 16 teams in the league, both the Brooklyn Nets and the Boston Celtics would have missed out on the postseason. Oklahoma City and Phoenix would have gotten in instead, while New Orleans were the 8th seed in the West.
It’s hard seeing the league moving away from the East – West split but divisions might be going and disappearing very soon. Nothing has been approved just yet, but we can all be feeling it in the air tonight.