As you likely know, there has been a lot of talk recently about shortening the NBA schedule, since some feel that the length of the regular season makes each single game fairly unimportant. One impetus is "load management", which is complicated but involves resting players at times during the regular season, and which is often associated with Kawhi Leonard. It is very understandable why Leonard or any player or team would do this, but it is also understandable why some fans don't like it, even if they agree that having stars healthy and fresh in the playoff is good. So I think it is worth exploring shortening the season, and I would like to share a proposal. As far as I can tell, SB Nation does not have a league-wide section to post something like this, so I thought it would make sense to post it here since these discussions often involve Leonard. I apologize if this is a misuse of the FanPosts, and if so hopefully the post can be removed.
I am certainly not the only person to have this idea and I’m sure others have had similar ideas. The NBA itself has talked about adding another tournament, and I apologize if I’m missing the ideas of anybody I should mention, but I don’t recall seeing something quite like what I’m laying out here so I wanted to write it up.
The basic idea is to break the season into two seasons: a "Geographic Season" and a "Normal Season". The "Geographic Season" would be somewhat similar to the current college football schedule: each team focuses on winning their division, then the best teams go to a short single elimination tournament. The "Normal Season" would be just like the current season but with fewer games, and maybe no need for conferences or divisions.
So each year each team would have two big goals: win the "Geographic Season" Cup (and lesser things like a conference championship or division championship), and win the "Normal Season" NBA Finals.
(I don’t think the terms "Geographic Season" and "Normal Season" would actually be used.)
Overall, individual players would play fewer games than they currently do, but the games could feel more important and might attract more viewers and interest than they currently do.
The idea is that the "Geographic Season" would draw interest because of the regional rivalries and the excitement of a single-elimination tournament, while the "Normal Season" would draw interest for the ups-and-downs of a long season, the drama of best-of-7-games series, and for truly determining the best teams and players.
One note: Ideally, there would be ZERO back-to-back games on the schedule for any team with the possible exception of the preseason games (with frequent rest mandated for individual players in those games). At the very least, back-to-back games involving travel should be eliminated.
Here’s how it could work:
1. GEOGRAPHIC SEASON
1a) Inter-Division Preseason Games (10-20 games)
These games basically do not matter. Each team plays about 10-20 games over a short time frame, so a lot more preseason games than the league currently uses. All games would be inter-division and probably intra-conference to reduce travel. The purpose is simply to make enough money from these games as to make parties amenable to removing games from the rest of the schedule. Team record in these games means nothing, frequent player rest would be mandated, and rosters could be temporarily expanded to allow individual players to sit out the majority of these games. Star players would be expected to sit out most of these games, and the games would be an opportunity for up-and-coming players to prove themselves and for coaches to figure out their rotations. Since these games don’t count, they could also serve as testing grounds for one-game gimmicks like a 4-point line that might draw viewers.
1b) Division Games (8 games)
These games count. Each team plays 8 games: one home game and one road game against the other teams in their division. The top two teams in each division advance to the division championship.
1c) Division Championship (1 game for qualifying teams)
One single game for each division to determine the division championship. Winners advance to the conference semifinal.
1d) Conference Semifinal (1 game for qualifying teams)
There are three divisions in each conference, so one division champion in each conference would get a bye in this round. (One option to determine which team gets the bye: Look at the overall record for each division in preseason games, excluding games involving division champions.) The other two division champions play a single game to determine who advances to the conference championship.
1e) Conference Championship (1 game for qualifying teams)
One single game for each conference to determine the conference championship. Winners advance to the Cup Final.
1f) Cup Final (1 game for qualifying teams)
Winners get a nice trophy.
2. NORMAL SEASON
2a) Regular Season (58 games)
Each team plays one home game and one road game against each of the other teams in the league. The top sixteen teams make the playoffs.
2b) Playoffs First Round (best-of-7-games series for qualifying teams)
Basically just like it is now. Winners advance to second round of the playoffs.
2c) Playoffs Second Round (best-of-7-games series for qualifying teams)
Basically just like it is now. Winners advance to third round of the playoffs.
2d) Playoffs Third Round (best-of-7-games series for qualifying teams)
Basically just like it is now. Winners advance to NBA Finals.
2e) NBA Finals (best-of-7-games series for qualifying teams)
Basically just like it is now. Winners get a nice trophy.
So that’s it. Thank you for reading. I would love to hear any thoughts. I’m sorry again if I am posting this in the wrong place, and if so hopefully it can be ignored.