Dear Mr. Silver,
A few days ago, you publicly said that the NBA’s superstars were not participating in enough games per season. That it was a problem, and that you didn’t have the solution right now. I have a proposal for you, one which I believe will raise the percentage of games played per year. It gives you the tournament you’ve been talking about for the last few years, shortens the season without hurting your TV deals, and helps eliminate the problem of tanking. Would you like me to say more?
Step 1: Shorten the season
Currently, teams play 82 games. 41 home and 41 away. For example, the Toronto Raptors played 17 sets of back-to-back games, an issue identified years ago as leading to increased injury. Let's go ahead and decrease that number by cutting the games from 82 to 72. With ten fewer games to schedule, you can have ten fewer back-to-back series. Decreasing the likelihood of injuries, while simultaneously decreasing the need for organizations to put their superstars on the bench for reasons of "load-management".
To get to 72 games, we can structure it in this way. We’ll refocus on Divisional rivalries, with 5 teams in each Division, they’ll play 8 games against each. 32 games, and an even split between home and away amongst them. For the rest of the Conference outside of the Division, another 10 teams, a home and away with each gives you another 20 games. In the other conference there are 15 more teams, in two of those Divisions, you will play each team once per year, rotating annually who is at home, 10 games. While the remaining division will match up on a home and away series, and the division matchups will change every season, 10 more games.
That right there gives you 72 games, equally balanced among home and away, ten fewer back-to-back games, and the potential to lessen travel back and forth across the country. Which, isn’t the same as Wilt Chamberlain riding a bus, but is nonetheless hard on the body.
Step 2: Convince the owners
So we have our 72 game shortened season. How do we get Owners to sign-off on not having Steph Curry come in to fill their seats at least once a year? How do we stop TNT and ESPN from complaining about diminished product return for the fewer games? The answer lies with Adam’s long wanted in-season tournament!
You can schedule the tournament during Division games. You play your Divisional opponents eight times a year, so let’s make four of those game count as a Round Robin for the tournament as well. Two home games, two away games against each opponent in the Division. Rivalry games that will matter like they did in years gone by, drawing eyes to the television because of the playoff like intensity that is on the line when there’s a trophy to be won. After those games are played, the team with the best record in each Division, along with the next best record in the Conference advance to the next round of the Tournament.
Here’s where we can have a bit of fun, bring eyes to the screen, and add in up to nine more prime time television events for your broadcasting partners. You can make the next two rounds single elimination, bringing in eyes from every corner of the sporting world. Unlike the playoffs, you don’t need to go in Conference, you can line up the 3 Divisional Champs and the Wildcard from each Conference and have them seeded 1-8 based on record, with point differential as the tie-breaker. Potentially quieting the voices who have been calling for this format in the playoffs. Then, in the finals, best of three series, winner takes the Trophy, amongst other things.
The idea of a Boston Celtics matchup against the LA Lakers in February, single elimination game, with the opportunity to advance to a Tournament Finals? I may be wrong, but I’m willing to bet ESPN is salivating at the idea.
Step 3: Convince the players
So how do we convince the players to sign off on potentially nine extra games after we just agreed to shorten the season by ten games for them? Well, the answer to all your questions is money. In addition to a Trophy to hold above the rest, give the winners $2 Million each. 15 person roster, and believe me, $30 Million is nothing to this league. You want to play it off to fans. Give $1 Million to each player and another $15 Million to the charitable organization of choice of the team.
I did mention this idea could stop tanking. I also haven’t mentioned what’s in it for the organization if they do well in the tournament. Draft Picks.
Yes, you keep the current playoff lottery system, but let’s add to it. If you win your division, you get the same number of balls in the lottery as the team with the best record to not make the playoffs. From there, if you win the tournament, you get the same number of balls as the three worst teams in the league.
No more incentivizing losing. Instead, you push teams to advance in the Tournament in hopes of securing a top draft pick. If this was the case, do you think that the Rockets would have decided to sit John Wall intentionally this year? I don’t!
Mr. Silver, I leave this with you for your consideration. I don’t even need consulting, just take the plan, give us a better league.