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NBA's D-League to Allow Top Seeded Teams to Pick Their Playoff Opponent

Mar 9, 2009 – 9:47 PM
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Brett Pollakoff

Brett Pollakoff %BloggerTitle%

I am one of the countless lucky individuals who finds himself on the D-League's daily e-mail distribution list. Normally, this entitles me to receive such fascinating news alerts as (in all caps, mind you) "IOWA'S DEMETRIS NICHOLS CALLED UP TO NEW YORK KNICKS."

Not exactly breaking news, but you can't blame people for trying. So typically, I glance at the announcement, select the message, and hit the "archive" button. (Hey, GMail has a point: Who needs to delete when you have over 7303.442525 megabytes (and counting) of free storage?)

A message that came in Monday, however, immediately became required reading. Because it was an announcement that promised an "innovative 2009 playoff format," and the details definitely did not disappoint.

From the official press release:
New for the 2009 postseason, the three division winners will have the unique opportunity to select their first round opponent from the teams ranked five through eight. The top-seeded division winner will select its opponent first, with the second and third ranked division winners following in that order. The fourth seeded team will play the remaining team.
How great is that? What this translates to is basically a three-team draft where each will select their first round playoff opponent!

If the NBA did this one day, couldn't you easily imagine this becoming an hour long event on TNT, with commentary from the coaches and general managers explaining their decisions, along with a newly freed Charles Barkley (inevitably) decrying some of the choices as being "turrible?" So could I.

That's why it would be awesome. Now obviously, very few teams would deviate from choosing an opponent other than the one they'd face as determined by the standings, for fear of providing some false motivation to a club that really shouldn't be in the same league (in the first round anyway) as a top-seeded team. And for the most part, it probably wouldn't make that big of a difference in the results; the teams that end up at the top of the heap are the ones that have proven to be consistently good over the course of an 82-game season.

What about that one year when it would have mattered, though? Dallas Mavericks fans know where I'm going with this.

The Mavs had the league's best record at 67-15 and an MVP-winner in 2007, when they faced the one team that posed a matchup nightmare for them -- the Golden State Warriors. They lost to the eighth-seeded Dubs in six games, but if this system was in place, who knows? We might view Dirk Nowitzki and Avery Johnson in a completely different light, and the Warriors may never have had their moment in the spotlight.

I'm not saying whether this would be a good or a bad thing for the league, and with seven-game series being played in the first round, it likely would be just a thing. But you can't say it wouldn't be interesting, and anything you can do to add an additional element of intrigue to a major sport's playoff system is definitely worth investigating.
Filed under: Sports