This week NBA Commissioner Adam Silver floated the idea of a midseason single-elimination NBA Tournament.
What’s not to like about his grandiose vision?
The format works well for March Madness. My critique of the NBA playoffs is seeing too much of the same teams. Six weeks of Lance Stephenson can be a bit much.
I enjoy the entire product. Being in the Minnesota market I got a chance to watch Kevin Love frequently, whose team had the misfortune of being in the Western Conference and out of the playoff picture. Ditto for New Orleans’ Anthony Davis.
Meanwhile the NBA playoffs drag through the entire spring into summer. February marks the dog days of the pro basketball season. There are plenty of games, but not at anywhere close to playoff intensity. A midseason “NBA Cup” format would change that. A fortnight from Feb. 15 until March 1 would work perfectly, as it is one of the deader periods on the sports calendar and would immediately rival the NCAA’s March Madness.
Did I mention single-elimination and brackets? If people with no other interest suddenly care about Murray State for pseudo-betting purposes, we can do the same for the Detroit Pistons.
Rather than argue pros and cons, I offer a prototype bracket based on the final 2013-14 regular-season standings.
Ideally, a proposed NBA Cup would be in conjunction with an expansion to 32 teams. For the prototype, I added the “Seattle Sonics” and “Austin Legends.” And as fate would have it, look who the 31st-seeded Sonics draw in Round 1!
There would be intrigue throughout the brackets, giving a much-needed stage to the entire league.
– The Spurs would get the Wichita State treatment in their bracket. Kevin Love and the Timberwolves would potentially lurk in Round 2, followed possibly by the Golden State Warriors in a regional final. Any takers for guarding Steph Curry in a one-game format?
– The fourth-seeded Pacers and fifth-seeded Heat would be on a collision course in their bracket, whetting appetites for a potential playoff rematch. That is if they don’t look past the No. 12 Suns or No. 13 Bulls. It would likely be in a losing cause, but Michael Carter-Williams could show off against the Pacers in Round 1.
– The Clippers would likely roll over the No. 30 Bucks in Round 1. But the real story might be Blake Griffin and Giannis Antetokounmpo trading highlight-reel plays on a national stage. The No. 22 Cavaliers will obviously be contenders in 2014-15, but Kyrie Irving’s 2014 squad would have been a trendy upset pick over the No. 11 Raptors.
– The No. 25 Lakers and No. 26 Celtics took their lumps this year, but a tourney would have provided an opportunity to gauge progress. Brad Stevens has a little experience with tournaments, a deep run would put another stamp on his resume. And if Kobe Bryant was healthy he would get an opportunity to prove he is still among the greats of the game with the one-and-done format.
Silver’s proposed plan involves holding the entire 31-game event in Las Vegas. There are definitely enough venues to make it work. It would be a two-week gathering of basketball junkies from near and far.
For my template I chose four random cities to host the first two rounds. By simple rotation each franchise would host a “regional” once every eight years. It would be a chance for fans in various market to sample other teams over the course of several days. The final rounds could then be held in a domed venue like the Final Four.
Seeds could be set following games of Jan. 31, giving fans and the media two weeks to analyze brackets before tournament play begins. Again, extra attention would likely go to franchises not normally talked about in the middle of a regular season campaign. Teams might even make trades in anticipation of the tourney, seeking the splash that a deep run would produce.
With the bracket shown above, I put in one-game simulations for a hypothetical tournament and here is what the computer spat out. I stress this is a dramatization and has not occurred in any way, shape or form.
There were minor upsets along with the the Milwaukee Bucks somehow advancing to the national semifinal. The championship game featured Kevin Durant and the Thunder taking home their first trophy.
Could the Greek Freak take off and lead his team to three straight upsets? That would be the beauty of the format.