Press Box: Shorter playoff series will reduce injuries in the NBA

Illustration by Ky Williams

Nile McNair, Contributing Writer

In last season’s NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors lost two of their starting five to injuries sustained in the playoffs. 

The Warriors were the favorites to win the title, but losing superstars Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson to injury in the playoffs dashed their chances; opening the door for the Toronto Raptors to win it. 

“When Klay goes down and out of the game, it’s like ‘You got to be kidding me,’” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “This has got to stop. It’s devastating. I don’t know if it’s related to five straight seasons of playing a 100-plus games.’’

In order to win the title, a team must win four of the seven games in the two-month series. However, the prolonged series results in heightened predictability compared to other sports’ postseasons.

The predictability issue has caused fans to come into the season essentially knowing who will win the championship.

In order to correct the matter, the NBA should consider shortening the first two rounds of the playoffs. 

Implementing this format will create a sense of urgency the NBA hasn’t seen in the playoffs since the rule change in 2003. 

Previously, the NBA had a five-game-series first round, followed by the remaining three seven-games series. Both the first and second rounds of the playoffs should be a five-game series, and then the conference finals and NBA finals should be a seven-game series. 

Ultimately, most believe the 2003 change by the NBA was intended to generate more revenue from television and ticket sales. 

Prime examples of short series include the MLB’s five-game series for its divisional playoffs and the NFL’s and college basketball’s single-elimination postseason tournaments. 

Aside from minimizing predictability and injuries, single-game elimination tournaments provide Cinderella stories like VCU going to the Final Four in 2011, or the lowest seed in the playoffs winning the Super Bowl like the Packers did in 2010. 

Back when the first round of playoffs was only a five-game series, low seed teams, such as the Houston Rockets in 1995, were more able to win an NBA title. This doesn’t necessarily mean the NBA should implement a single-elimination postseason tournament, but the overall format should certainly change.

Even if the NBA lessens the number of games in the first two rounds of the playoffs, it will still bring in its desired revenue because the viewership of the first two rounds will increase. 

Recently, the NBA and commissioner Adam Silver have been considering a playoff reseeding of all 16 teams. 

One potential format for playoffs would set the best 16 teams in the league against each other, a plan that Silver said has received national attention.

“That is something that has got serious attention from the league, and the obstacle is travel and not tradition,” Silver said.

Obviously the commissioner is willing to change the playoff format in order to correct the conference imbalance, which is an issue in the NBA. 

If travel is the concern, then the NBA should shorten the first two rounds of the playoffs. It will increase the NBA playoff viewership revenue because it’s still a series that the best team should win. The increased likelihood of an upset would correct conference imbalance. 

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