LAS VEGAS – It’s so secret that the talent level between the NBA Eastern and Western Conferences is unbalanced. It became more tilted in the West’s favor when LeBron James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers.
Because of the imbalance, the NBA Board of Governors on Tuesday continued a discussion about changing the playoff format. Under the new idea, the playoffs would include the top 16 teams regardless of conference.
Right now, the top eight teams in each conference compete in separate brackets and the conference champions meet in the NBA Finals.
“I’ve said before that the most significant obstacle to seeding 1 through 16, as appealing as that would be to me and a lot of fans, is the dramatic increase in travel that would follow,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said after the board meeting.
The league estimates that seeding 1 through 16 in the playoffs would increase overall playoff travel by 40 to 50 percent. Silver said that would affect teams disproportionately. Obviously, teams on the coasts tend to travel more than squads in the Midwest.
“We’ve spent a lot of time in the last few years trying to reduce the number of back-to-backs, to reduce the amount of fatigue on players based on crossing time zones,” he said. “So obviously, if we were to make that change, it would work in the other direction.
“It doesn’t mean that it can’t, but it’s not something we could do quickly because it would require a wholesale reexamination of how we do our schedule.”
Silver said the league will continue to look at it. The change has a real appeal to ownership and fans, he said.
“It’s just not such an easy thing to implement,” he said.
The league estimates that seeding 1 through 16 in the playoffs would increase travel by roughly 40 to 50 percent.