Mr. J.V. Presogna
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"Make the NBA Playoffs More Competitive and More Exciting"

Written By
Mr. J.V. Presogna
© 2016

This article on the NBA was written at the end of the 2015-2016 season:

The current NBA audience may be satisfactory for many in the NBA Office, but it is far below what it used to be. From 1982 through 1998, the NBA Finals average rating on TV never dropped below about 12.0. From 1999 through 2016, only one NBA Finals average rating for TV was above 12.0. That was the 2000-2001 NBA season. The 2015 and 2016 Finals averages were the highest since 2004, but still far below what they were from 1982 through 1998.

If you agree with this article, write to the NBA Office to make them aware of it.


The rigors of playing in the National Basketball Association (NBA) are well known.

It's an 82-game season, and the playoffs could add another 28 games if they all go to 7 games apiece. That's a potential 110 games of running up and down the court. Some college players have a tough time transitioning from a 35-game NCAA schedule to the NBA's schedule.

This long NBA season gives two unfortunate results. First, the players can get tired over the long haul, not just for the long season with night games, but also the second season of playoff games.

Second, viewers do not pay too much attention to the first or second round of the playoffs in many cases. The NBA might not admit this, but the Conference Playoffs and the Championship Playoffs are the biggest draws, except for die-hard fans of the lower ranked teams.

There was a time when you had to win only 12 playoff games to win an NBA Championship.

The last time that happened the 1982-83 Philadelphia 76ers went 12-1 to win the NBA Title, sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals.

In 1983-84, when a mini-series was added, the Boston Celtics went 15-8 to win the NBA Title, beating the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals.

This 15-win requirement lasted for a number of years. The last time a team had to win 15 games was the 2001-2002 Los Angeles Lakers, who went 15-4 to win the NBA Title, sweeping the New Jersey Nets in the Finals.

The NBA decided to add a necessary win the next year, when the 2002-2003 San Antonio Spurs went 16-8 to win the NBA Title, beating the New Jersey Nets in the Finals.

That's the way it has been ever since. This past season the 2015-2016 Cleveland Cavaliers went 16-5 to win the NBA Title, upsetting the Golden State Warriors in 7 games.

While the ratings have gone up the last couple of years, they are not even close on average to the years from 1982 to 1998, which covers the Magic Johnson / Larry Bird / Moses Malone years through Michael Jordan / Scottie Pippen / Karl Malone years. During those years, the Finals average rating never dropped below 12.0, while the years since have seen only one year rise above 12.0 --- that being the 2000 - 2001 NBA season. See here for a capsule view of the averages over the years.

I have a suggestion for the NBA in restructuring the playoff system, which will benefit the players, the fans, and the television ratings as well.

A playoff series of 7 games should be required only for a championship, both for the NBA Title and the Conference Championship Series. The rest of the playoffs, however, could be much more exciting if shortened and using a Round Robin structure. In other words, winning the Conference should be a 7-game series because it is a determination of champion, and the NBA title series should be a 7-game series as well. The rest of the playoffs should be featured as a type of Round Robin tournament in order to get in.

This creates drama, pressure, and excitement, making every game a critical game leading up to the Championship Series.

Here is how it would work: Teams play until they get 2 losses.

Each Conference seeds the teams 1 - 8,
and they play as follows:

1 v 8
2 v 7
3 v 6
4 v 5

1. First round play leaves 4 winners and 4 losers in each Conference.

2. Using the rule that Losers Play Losers and Winners Play Winners, the Second Round will result in each Conference having 2 teams at 2-0, 4 teams at 1-1, and 2 teams eliminated at 0-2, after the following scenario:

L1 v L4
L2 v L3

W1 v W4
W2 v W3

3. The 2-0 teams get a bye while the others play the Third Round, as noted above.

4. The Third Round will have each Conference producing 2 teams at 2-1 and also 2 teams eliminated at 1-2, leaving the following matchups:

W1(2-0), W2(2-0), W3(2-1), W4(2-1)

5. The Fourth Round sees each Conference having the 2-0 teams play the 2-1 teams.

W1 v W4
W2 v W3

Now, those 4 final teams will determine who plays the 7-game series to win the Conference.


A: Both 2-0 teams win, so that's easy. They play the 7-game series against each other.

B: Both 2-1 teams win, in upsets. The same 2 teams play again, as a 2-game series where 3-1 teams play 2-1 teams, and eliminate each other.

C: One 2-0 team wins, and the other gets upset. This means the 3-0 team gets a bye, waiting for the other 2 teams to play one more time in the Round Robin.

Therefore, we have reached a 7-game series in each Conference.

From here on out, it is the same as we have now, using a 2-2-1-1-1 playoff scenario for the Championship Series, thus having 2 series of 7-games, one for the Conference Championship and one for the NBA Title.

It should be stated also that the 2-2-1-1-1 playoff scenario is really the best for the NBA in modern times. The 2-3-2 format started with baseball when they took trains, and traveling was a chore. Traveling is fairly easy nowadays, so the 2-2-1-1-1 scenario is the best for the NBA.

I would bet that not only would the majority of players enjoy the new structure, but the TV ratings would surge quite a bit. The playoffs would actually be more fair, taking away the low chances that a number 8 seed would go to the Championship in a trail of 7-game upsets. Only the best teams should be ready for the 7-game series, one for the Conference, and one for the NBA Title.


Mr. J.V. Presogna has been examining athletic performance for more than 30 years since 1985 with True Worth Studies, and he has published several books.

Although he did not play sports in college, he has coached 3 sports, and he has published books on sports as well. He once wrote a sports column for a newspaper back in the 1970s, and he also offers sports software on this web site.

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