Should NBA Change Its Playoffs Format?

The NBA playoffs are a couple of weeks away from starting, yet more than a month away from determining who wins in the first round.

Playoff games every night of the week for weeks can be compelling, and for many years it worked out well, but times have changed and a quicker format seems appropriate now.

The Internet generation has given sports junkies more perspective.  Getting to the point is more important than seeing more games played just for the heck of it.


The buildup to the conference finals and championship rounds can be improved upon and made to be more responsive to fans’ expectations.

The characteristic of the NBA playoffs that sets it apart from baseball and football is that there are four rounds to play.

A best-of-seven in the first round is not necessary. And rather than have it as a best-of-five, as it used to be, just shorten to a best-of-three and get it over with.  The best team should always win, regardless of the length of the series, but this length of a series will apply a lot of pressure to the favorite teams and give underdog teams a greater chance of pulling the upset.

If a favorite team can’t win a best-of-three first rounder, then they don’t deserve to win the championship anyway.

A best-two-out-of-three first round pushes the playoffs along at the right pace, getting to a second round quickly and giving sports fans more immediate gratification.

The second round has to be a best-of-five if the first round is best-of-three.  The same philosophy applies.  Push the playoffs along to get to the more meaningful best-of-sevens sooner.  Along the way, there may be more upsets, but also there may be better quality games.

The best-of-seven for a first and second round has outlived its purpose.  It tends to make the NBA playoffs drag on too long.  There’s nothing wrong with building up more tension in early rounds that are decided more quickly.

The playoff format change would bring more attention to the NBA and the marketing can take advantage of more deciding game threes and fives in which the loser goes home.

Best-of-sevens should be made to be more special.  They should be reserved for the Conference Championships and Finals only.


Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of

About Howard M Alperin

Husband, Father, Teacher, Planner, Advisor, Counselor, Social Worker, Businessman, Consultant, Blogger, Author, Entrepreneur, Inventor, YMCA Coach, Marketer, Innovator, Advertiser, Promoter, Court Appointed Special Advocate to children, Volunteer, Runner, Athlete, Spanish Speaker, Non-Sports Card Collector, Dog Agility Enthusiast and OIF Veteran.


  1. JustBlaze Sports says:

    Maybe that is why you write about Socer. You need to stick to socer, because your NBA knowledge Null and Void.

  2. Sounds like a soccer person to me. Why don’t we just do away with playoffs altogether as somebody will get there fellings hurt if they lose. We should give everyone trophy and not even keep score. Everyone wins. Now thats some good sport.

    • Shamus McFitzy says:

      A playoff system allows less teams to get their feelings hurt, not a soccer “regular season champion wins it all” system. 16 teams get into the playoffs in the NBA and get to feel like they accomplished something, while in the Premiership one of 6 teams is going to win every year and the other fan bases have to live with it. Good try with the “Soccer sucks” nonsense, though; I thought it was real manly.

  3. Michaelkeil39 says:

    I say let all the teams make the playoffs, seed them accordingly then do a NCAA style one and done until the two teams last standing meet and then do a seven game series. NBA playoffs as is is the most boring of playoffs.

  4. Andrewresendez says:

     I wouldn’t have a problem with changing the format to this, but I wouldn’t care if it stayed the same either.

    More dramatic first round vs more basketball. Either way works for me.

  5. You, sir, are an idiot.

  6. I think a better way to do this isn’t to make the series shorter, but to shorten the length between games. I’m thinking that every third or fourth game should be a back to back and never should there be more than 1 game between games. You’d save a week or two because of this and if a team sweeps another team and then has to wait for their opponent, you’d lesson the effects of rust.

  7. Lakersrule007 says:

    Yes, fire David Stern’s midget as*

  8. single game elimination for every round except the finals. three game series in the finals. that would be intense like the nfl playoffs and march madness. shorten the season to 58 games.

  9. Shamus McFitzy says:

    It’s been proven that even a 7-game series allows an underdog to win an awful lot, so with a 3-game series you’d probably get a 1-seed losing every few years, guaranteeing worse teams in the next round. Even the best teams lose 2 out of 3 games a few times a season.

  10. True Grit says:

    howard m alperin you are an idiot sir. this is the worst idea ever. think of this shortend season which has been amazing i might add. but i want those 14 or whatever games back and with most of the teams just with in a couple of games from each other heading into the playoff’s whose to know if we can have another golden state vs. dallas series. i want knock down drag out physical punch you in the mouth basketball and if you can’t handle that you’ll be having an early exit. hey if that doesn’t happen and its a sweep and a boring series you only end up playing one extra game at four so you don’t really end up “shorting” a series anyway. because lets face it those players want to know without a doubt that they played without any shortcuts to the next round. that they grinded through the nitty gritty to raise that trophy at the end. in the poetic words of ricky bobby ” if you aint first…youre last.”

  11. NBA has 6 divisions…too many but, another story. Playoffs: change to 2 of 3 for 4 wild cards (non-division  teams with best records across divisions). Then, then 2 wild card winners  go against Division leaders..with 2 Divison leaders with best records getting byes and other Division leaders playing each other . Make these 3 of 5 series..This gets you down to 4 teams.
    Conference finals can be 4 0f 7 and finals, of course 4 of 7. Voila…the NBA playoffs may finish before Christmas …actually, even by the end of May or before.Sure, owners willsqueal at loss of revenue but players may have longer careers and what the **!!#* is a 82 game season for except  to reward the best teams with a playoff shot??!!
     I would even consider NO wild-cards…or 2 wild cards…one from each division or 2 best records across divisions…to go against the 2 division winners with the lowest winning %..meaning we can drop the series of wild card vs wild card. So, to win it all, you still have to win11 games…or 13 games . I can hear squeals from owners now..and from TV altho TV ratings for all but finals are low and even Finals bring lower ratings…

  12. It is all about the dollars! Sold out arenas and advertising.  They only way NBA would change format if they add more games to the Championship to keep the sucker watching.

  13. eauclaire12 says:

    Obviously, a jounalistic hurry up approach; but what about the team that makes its first playoffs in 10 years and the FANS of that team, under your system would see at most ONE playoff game in the first round! NO! Seven from the start is fine! Or maybe you’d like the play 162(82) games/one playoff
    game baseball model???

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