Limpag: Group stage in the NBA?

Fair Play

ONE of the most intriguing things being thrown about in the planned resumption of the NBA is having a group stage format in the playoffs. A group stage, of course, is something familiar to football fans, but not so to basketball fans.

The group stage is shorter, compared to the usual direct matchups that the NBA uses in its playoffs and has more drama and upsets.

If the NBA wants 20 teams in the playoffs, it can have five groups of four teams each, and with that setup, there's a big chance that two of the top eight teams--Milwaukee, Toronto, Boston and Miami in the East and the Lakers, Clippers, Denver and Utah in the West--could belong in the same group, forming the much hated or beloved group of death.

And instead of a seven-game series, you can have the four-team groups play a double round robin, with the top two advancing to the next stage, that would make every game a potential decider. Of course, that also leaves a lot of room for upsets as just a couple of good games could see the lowest ranked in the group topple the top seed.

Aside from that drama, there’s also the other drama where two teams could potentially conspire to determine which teams advance, something football has avoided by holding the last two matches of the group stage simultaneously.

Will the NBA bite this? I hope so, as I think a change in format is what’s needed in their planned resumption. And of course, with commissioner Adam Silver having mulled a European-football type tournament a year back to shorten the league, perhaps this could be a step in that direction?

If the group stage is a hit—which I assume it will be, save for the top seeds who get the upset axe—then perhaps the NBA can also consider adopting the other practices in football which could help put some parity in the league.

The top flights in European football have 18 to 20 teams each, with the bottom two getting relegated to the lower division, which usually have 20 teams. At 32 teams, I think the NBA can afford to have two divisions with a relegation/promotion at the end of the season. I mean, who loves to watch 60-win teams taking a vacation when they face 10-win teams late in the sesaon.

And with promotion/relegation on the line, the last games in the regular season will be as interesting as the playoffs.


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