Division winners will no longer hold any weight in the playoff seeding which could dramatically alter the way we view our NBA odds for postseason glory.
The NBA has not completely done away with divisions for this upcoming season but the immutable fact is that they have been rendered as impotent as a eunuch in cold storage. The NBA’s Board of Governors stated that the top eight teams would be seeded strictly according to record with no deference given to division winners. Tie breakers will no longer favor a division winner over a non-division winner but will be decided by the head-to-head record. In addition, there is now a possibility that a division winner will not qualify for the playoffs if eight other teams in the conference have a better record.
There was an uproar last year when the Portland Trailblazers landed the number four seed in the Western Conference by virtue of the fact they won the anemic Northwest Division. In this year’s playoff format the Blazers would have been relegated to sixth seed status while two powerhouses like the Spurs and Clippers would have avoided a first round clash that saw one of two title contenders bounced in the early going.
While some may argue that dispensing of divisional significance eliminates the import of regional rivalries, I would argue that the only regional rivalries fans are truly invested in would be teams hailing from the same city or state – think Clippers/Lakers and Knicks/Nets. I can tell you firsthand that Celtics’ fans still get more pumped up for the Lakers, regardless of how bad LA may be that year, coming into the Boston Garden than our neighbors the New York Knicks. It is a vestige of the 1980’s when Bird vs. Magic was all the rage and bad blood spilled between the coasts.
Adam Silver is the most forward-thinking commissioner in all of sports and he no doubt has his fingerprints all over this new playoff seeding arrangement. The question is why haven’t they done away completely with the divisions? Perhaps it is the same question the Brits have been asking of their monarchy that no longer wields any real power and has thus been reduced to ceremonial figureheads. Odds are that Adam Silver is not nearly as nostalgic as the British government and soon we shall see strictly Eastern and Western Conference standings devoid of divisions…as it should be.
How Does This Affect the NBA Odds?
If we take a look at the NBA picks regarding which division will win the championship we can see that the Atlantic Division has taken a tumble. Since the new system was announced we have seen the hapless Atlantic spike from +1300 all the way to +2800 because there is a chance that all five teams may miss the playoffs!
This makes far more sense and creates a level playing field for all the NBA franchises regardless of their geographic location. Why penalize a team like the LA Clippers because they happen to reside in the same division as the defending champion Golden State Warriors? In fact, this will increase their chances of actually winning the NBA title because they will avoid the vaunted Warriors until the bitter end when anything can happen.
As of this writing the San Antonio Spurs are the chalkiest Western Conference team to win this season’s NBA crown at +400 while the defending champs are +509. The Spurs are outright favorites to win the West at +229 followed by the Warriors +335, Thunder +500Clippers +650 and rounding out the top five are the Houston Rockets +1200.
The NBA and Adam Silver have got it right. Are you listening Roger Goodell?