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NBA considering playoff changes to provide for the best teams

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The NBA is discussing ways to improve competitive balance with the playoffs. The NFL is in the midst of considering its own expansion. Is this a good idea?

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The NBA has had a problem over the decade-plus in which the Western Conference has been considerably better than the Eastern Conference. This season, the NBA is all but assured of at least one sub-.500 team making the playoffs for the third straight year. In the East, Current No. 7 seed Charlotte is 22-28, while current No. 8 Miami is 21-29. In the West, 27-24 New Orleans and 25-25 Oklahoma City are currently on the outside looking in. However, beyond even that, seven of the eight current West playoff teams are playing at least .640 ball. In the East, only two teams are exceeding that mark.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has been asked about this issue, with NBA fans offering a wide variety of suggestions in recent years. SB Nation's Tom Ziller had an intriguing proposal for realignment if the league were to do away with conferences. Give it a read.

Silver was recently asked about the issue during an interview with Golden State Warriors broadcasters. He answered some Facebook questions, one of which was about competitive balance. He mentioned that a proposal existed in which division winners would earn automatic playoff berths, and then the ten best teams remaining, regardless of conference, would get the remaining seeds. Travel is brought up as an issue, but Silver mentioned that we are in an age in which many teams have their own planes, and travel is not quite the same big problem as in the past. It's certainly still something to consider, but it is not quite as big a problem.

This past year, the NFL had a sub-.500 division winner for the second time since 2010. The NFL playoffs have generally avoided a significant competitive imbalance problem. My only thought on the current set-up is that a division winner gets in the playoffs, but then the league should seed entirely based on record. People complain about a division winner getting more benefits, but I think just making the playoffs is a pretty good deal for a sub-.500 team!

Beyond this, the NFL is considering some changes. Later this spring, NFL owners are going to vote on whether to expand the playoffs from 12 to 14 teams. The No. 1 seed in each conference would get a bye, and then the remaining six teams on each side would square off. It sounds like this would lead to Monday playoff games, which of course means one or two teams would be looking at a shorter week for their next playoff game.

The NFL is clearly not concerned about short turnarounds. After all, they've got the Sunday to Thursday turnaround. It all comes down to more money. The question is at what point will expansion be too much? Last season, 10-6 Philadelphia and 9-7 Houston would have been in the playoffs. The year before would have seen 10-6 Arizona and 8-8 Pittsburgh. I suppose it's not awful, but it is going to be a step down in quality.