20 April 2023 🏀
There are too many games in basketball (and baseball for that matter). End of story. When there are so many games, no individual game really matters and that’s when you end up with games where stars are okay sitting or fans just don’t want or feel the need to watch any game let alone every game. In the NFL, every game matters because there are only 17. In the Premier League, every game matters because there are no playoffs—the “regular season” record at the end 38 games determines the champion. Now I don’t think the NBA will ever drastically lower the number of games, heck, they are already looking at adding games with a mid-season tournament, and they sure as hell aren’t going to be eliminate the playoffs. So what can they do?
I still think the NBA should reduce the number of games in the regular season and I think the clear answer to how many games it should be is 68. And if the league really wants, I think there is an easy way to add a little 8 team mid-season tournament based on how I’ve broken things down.
So we have to start with a little caveat… The 68 number is based on an NBA with an additional two teams: Seattle1 and Las Vegas. The rumors have been out there for awhile that these cities could be getting NBA teams so I’ve got my fingers crossed, but you could easily redo the math for a 66 game schedule without those additional teams.
Right off the bat, the first thing that needs to happen with the addition of Seattle and Las Vegas is working out the whole conference and division situation. Given both teams are obviously Western Conference teams, we want to keep things balanced (we don’t need a whole AL West/NL Central situation on our hands). So after adding Seattle and Las Vegas to the Western Conference, we need to move a Western Conference team to the East. In my mind, it’s pretty obvious it should be one of: Memphis, Minnesota, or New Orleans. Minnesota probably makes the most sense given how far away it is from other teams in it’s division as well as it’s proximity to Milwaukee and Chicago, but the others are technically further East. I don’t really care and the details at the moment don’t really matter as long as we move one.
Now that we have 16 teams per conference, we are going to expand from three divisions per conference to to four. This keeps things easy and even across the board with eight divisions of four teams in two conferences. Ahh symmetry.
So on to the scheduling! To kick things off and cover the bulk of the season, every team will play every other team twice—one at home and one on the road. So 32 total teams, all playing the other 31 teams twice, giving us 62 games. Then every team will play the other three teams in their division another two times—one home, one on the road. That’s an additional six games, giving us a total of 68 games for each team. Now if you wanted to, this is where you could start to build a mid-season tournament off of those extra divisional games.
Essentially, after each team has played the other three teams in their division twice, both home and away—taking extra care during scheduling to make sure this occurs in the first half of the season—you dub a “winner” based on the division record (and point differential, if needed) in those first six divisional games for each team. The “winner” from each division then advances to the “Elite Eight”, where the eight teams are seeded by regular season record (you could do this by conference or 1-8) and play a single elimination tournament. Easy peasy. The “Elite Eight” format only adds a maximum of three more games for those teams on top of the 68, so we are still well below 82. (I personally don’t know how they get players to care about the mid-season tournament and therefore the fans won’t have a reason to care either, but that’s not my problem right now.)
In the end, the reduction from 82 games to 68 is 14 less games per team, so 420 games are lost per season, which isn’t insignificant. With the addition of two teams, we add back in 136, plus seven in the mid-season tournament, and let’s add the current six play-in games for good measure, and we end up with the NBA losing 271 games, which is still quite significant, but I would argue when the games matter more and guys are able to avoid things like back-to-backs, get more rest, and reduce injuries, it creates a better, more entertaining product in the long run that fans will actually want to watch. 68 is still too many games in my mind, but at least it’d be a start.
If baseball can add a shot clock, the NBA can experiment too and I think the number of games is the perfect place to start.
Now that I live in Seattle, I’m desperate for an NBA team so anything I can do to will it into existence I will.↩︎