NBA Playoff Seeding…. what if

Right now the Grizz and the Clippers are battling it out for the 5th playoff spot. The Nuggets pretty much have their division locked up. Locking in the 3rd seed.

The 5th seed plays the 4th seed. The 3rd seed plays the 6th seed. The interesting tidbit however is that between the 3rd and 6th seed, the team with the better record gets home court advantage.

So riddle me this NBA fans.

What happens if both the Grizz and Clips clinch homecourt advantage over the Nuggets ?. Put another way, its possible that, and Im just picking numbers here, the Grizz and Clips are tied with 4 games to play, andboth teams know that the team that loses more of those 4 games gets home court advantage against the Nuggets.The team that wins more, getsthe Mavs or Spurs starting on the road.

Isnt the goal of the whole season to gain homecourt advantage for as many playoffseries as possible ?

How much fun would it be to see the teams trying to lose games ? Or more to the point, lying about trying to win games, but “resting” their players.

Remember, homecourt isnt just about having a better chance to win with your fans behind you. Its an opportunity for teams to make more money.

If this isnt a reason to change the playoff series seeding right now, i dont know what is.

42 thoughts on “NBA Playoff Seeding…. what if

  1. I agree 100 percent on all of your ideas. what I think should be done is getting rid of the conferences. In the 2007 playoffs, the Western Conference was so much stronger, for example Cleveland, the number 2 in the east, would get 6th if they were in the west. So the playoffs would go 1/16, 2/15,3/14 etc. Even better, the 17, 18,19,20 teams get included in the tournament, or in the conferences if the league didn\’t get rid of the conferences, include the 9 and 10 seeds. Then either 13 play 20 14 play 19 15 play 18 16 play 17, or 7/10, 8/9 in either conference. They play in a best of 3 play in round and the winners get into the regular playoffs. This way, the top 12 get byes in the first round and get the rest they deserve, and these bottom seeds have to fight for the right to get in the playoffs. This way, 4 more teams get at least one playoff game, and potentially a few more in the real playoffs. Division leaders, instead of a top 4 seed (or eight) now are only garunteed the first round bye, nothing more. The NBA has had the same amount of teams qualifying for almost 25 years, and has added quite a few more teams, we need to expand.

    Comment by John Jacob -

  2. “Mark Cuban” rule …

    AP article today entitled “Stern unveils new plan for playoff seeds”: [Under the new proposal, the top four seeds would be slotted by record among the three division winners and the team with the next-best record. Had that been in place this season, the Spurs still would have been No. 1, but the Mavericks would have been No. 2. And they couldn’t have met until the conference finals.] (source:;_ylt=Ao.ZJ.4Ps5pOYNW8OJz3Lly8vLYF?slug=ap-stern-playoffseeding&prov=ap&type=lgns)

    Comment by JohnD -


    2006 Western Conference playoff seeding errors:

    This team had the 2nd best record but was a 4 seed.
    This team had the 8th best record but was a 3 seed.
    This team had the 3rd best record but was a 2 seed.
    This team had the 4th best record but was a 5 seed.
    This team had the 5th best record but was a 6 seed.
    This team had the 6th best record but was a 7 seed.

    Obviously, the current playoffs seeding rules need to
    be fixed, and this season has exposed the flaws.

    FLAW #1
    Dividing each conference into three divisions – and
    giving the third division winner a 3 seed at worst –
    meant that if teams with the two best records were in
    the same division they would be seeded 1 and 4 and
    would meet in only the second round, not the
    conference finals. This is exactly what happened this
    year with the Spurs and Mavericks, unfairly punishing
    the Mavericks.

    FLAW #2
    As long as one of the top four seeds is given to a
    division winner automatically, a team with the fourth
    best record is not guaranteed home court advantage in
    the first round.

    Unfortunately for the Memphis Grizzlies – a team yet
    to win a playoff game – they worked all season long to
    have a record among the top four teams in the
    conference only to not have home court advantage in
    the playoffs this year. To compound their misfortune,
    as the 5 seed they were matched up with the 4 seeded
    Mavericks, meaning the team with the fourth best
    record played the team with the second best record in
    only the first round.

    Some have suggested making the teams with the four
    best records the 1, 2, 3, and 4 seeds and giving the
    division winner no worse than a 5 seed. But to reward
    a division winner with a higher seed (even if it is as
    low as a 5 seed) when it does not have a record better
    than an 8 seed is to unfairly punish the legitimate 5,
    6, and 7 seeds by artificially pushing them down a
    seed, as happened in the Western Conference this year.

    Although there are some who think that winning a
    division should be rewarded, imagine a scenario (and
    it almost happened this year with the Nuggets) when a
    division winner has the ninth best record in a
    conference. Does that team earn the right to be in the
    playoffs? Is it ethical to exclude the team with the
    eighth best record from the playoffs in favor of a
    division winner with an inferior record? Just because
    there is a precedent of other professional sports
    allowing division winners with poorer records into the
    payoffs doesn’t mean it is right.

    A more equitable solution:

    Seed teams 1 through 8 by best record alone. Keep the
    divisions for scheduling purposes, but determine the
    playoff teams by conference standing.

    But what about the scenario when a division winner
    does not make the playoffs? Wouldn’t that ruin the
    whole point of having divisions? When a team with the
    9th best record in its conference would be a 6 seed in
    the other conference it still doesn’t make the
    playoffs. Isn’t that unfair too?

    When a division winner has the ninth (or worse) best
    record in its conference, reward them for winning the
    division by giving them a 9 seed. Then have them play
    a best of 3 series against the team with the eighth
    best record (the temporary 8 seed) for the final 8
    seed. The team with the better record would have home
    court advantage.

    This idea, similar to how the NCAA tournament has the
    65 seed team play the 64 seed for the final spot in
    the 64 seed tournament, gives the division winner
    another chance to qualify for the playoffs as a reward
    for winning the division despite its poor record. It
    also does not punish a legitimate 8 seed by not
    automatically excluding them in favor of an inferior
    division winner and gives them a chance to qualify. A
    3 game series would guarantee at least 1 home game for
    each team (assuming a Home-Road-Home format).

    Each conference’s best-of-3 games “pre-playoffs” series would
    take no more than 6 days and should allow the rest of
    the playoff teams time — but not too much time — to
    recuperate from injuries and prepare for the first
    round of the playoffs.

    Comment by db -

  4. I think seeding for each conference should be based on total won-lost record for the season. No passes for winning a weak division. East would be 1 Detroit playing 8 Milwaukee, 2 Miami-7 Indiana, 3 Cleveland-6 Chicago, and 4 New Jersey-5 Washington. West would be 1 San Antonio-8 Denver, 2 Dallas-7 Sacramento, 3 Phoenix-6 Lakers, 4 Memphis-5 Clippers. After each round, highest remaining seed plays lowest remaining seed. For example, Dallas and San Antonio win (#2 and #1 seed), Lakers and Memphis win (#6 and #4 seed). San Antonio plays Lakers and Dallas plays Memphis in 2nd round. Sets up Dallas-San Antonio in the conference finals. This way the best teams play each other in the conference finals (of course upsets always possible!). The fact that Denver is the #3 seed with the worst record of any western playoff team (tied w/Sacramento for total won-lost but under .500 in conference play) is ridiculous.

    Comment by Judy -

  5. Foul shooting would be odd though…you’d be forced back to your own goal so you’d want to hit the rim and miss but get the ball back.

    Comment by Pack -

  6. The Clippers beat the Grizzlies last night; a loss would have been more desirable from the perspective of playoff match-ups …

    “For the loss, the Clippers’ second straight and fifth in the last seven, they were rewarded with the sixth seed and home-court advantage against the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

    Meanwhile, the Grizzlies captured their seventh game of the last eight, earned a 3-1 edge over the Clippers in the season series and assured themselves of a better overall record than Los Angeles with one game left.

    Memphis earned the fifth seed, but the less enviable task of hitting the playoff road against the fourth-seeded Dallas Mavericks.”


    Comment by JohnD -

  7. As anticipated by Mr. Cuban …

    “In most years, this would have been the ideal scenario for the Los Angeles Clippers: All they have to do is lose. Now that they’re headed to the playoffs, they say they won’t — at least not on purpose. The Clippers visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night, the most intriguing matchup in a playoff race that remains murky going into the final days of the season. The loser would appear to have more to gain than the winner. A better postseason draw awaits the team that finishes lower in the standings … The No. 5 seed will open the postseason at Dallas, which has the second-best record in the West but falls to fourth because it is in the same division as San Antonio. The three division winners get the top three seeds. Meanwhile, the sixth-place team would have home-court advantage in a series against No. 3 Denver, and wouldn’t have to face either the Spurs or Mavs until the conference finals.”


    Comment by JohnD -

  8. The whole playoff system for the NBA is fatally flawed. 16 of 30 teams make the playoffs! 16 OF 30!!! That’s better than half. Why even bother with a regular season. It looks like that 4 teams… one in four playoff participants, will have a regualr season record under .500! All that does is reward mediocrity, and means that fans have to put up with increasingly meaningless games. But then again Mark, as you point out, the playoffs aren’t about the best versus the best… it’s all about the teams (and therefore YOU) making more money. No wonder fans are turning away. But then again, that’s the way it’s always been done!:

    Comment by The Daydreamer -

  9. Division Winners should be awarded home court for 1st round only, after that it should be based on pure records. This is of course if there is a true BIAS driven division schedule, like ML baseball. I don’t think the teams in the NBA play within their division enough to constitute in having divisions. If you play more in your own division than you are truly representing that divsion in the playoffs. If your record is not great, it could be because the teams in your division are tougher.. I think they should have less games outside the conference as well (like baseballs interleague play. You can still have Western/Eastern rivals simply by having the Lakers play Celtics at least twice a year. But you will really have true rivals simply by the fact that San Antonio would be playing Dallas more often..

    Comment by brian -

  10. Actually, the Clippers do not need to beat Seattle. The Clippers own the tiebreaker on Denver, so the Nuggets will be playing on the road to start the playoffs.

    Comment by Will M. -

  11. what do you guys think about trying to aquire kevin garnett next season. think about this line up for the MAVS………..
    F- Dirk
    F- J. Howard
    C- KG
    G- J.E.T
    G- D. Harris

    Comment by James A. -

  12. Guess what?!!! If the Clips beat Seattle Sunday night, then your hypothetical will come true. Both the Grizzles and the Clippers would have clenched a better record than Denver. The funny thing is that they play each other Tuesday night. Hey David Stern, nice work!! 🙂

    Comment by William -

  13. Mark, this is a question that has been raised time and time again by upset fans.

    When you think about, Dallas (from what it seems) get the hard end of the stick.

    Let’s have a look at the journey the Mavericks have to take, compared to Phoenix and the Clippers (assumed 6th seed for now)
    1. Phoenix: First round Lakers, Second Round Memphis/Denver, WCF (likely) Mavs/Spurs
    2. Clippers: First round Denver, Second Round Phoenix, WCF Mavs/Spurs
    3. Dallas: First round Memphis, Second Round Spurs, WCF God knows

    It’s obvious Dallas has the harder route. A lot of people say that “Champs should be ready” but think about how much easier it would be if Dallas did not have to play San Antonio.

    I’m not sure if your still reading the replies to your blogs, but I think you should –> It gives you the fans perspectives and helpful on your quest to getting the Mavericks more luxurious-ness.

    I think you should re-hire those 6 or so Mavs fat guys and take them to Memphis to show how we roll in the AAC

    – Andrew (Dear Mark, check my blog, alot of effort)

    Comment by Andrew Theodosi -

  14. Thomas Snyder,

    Thanks for making us T-Wolves fans sound about as whiney and pathetic as possible. No really.


    Comment by drake33 -

  15. My solution would … 3 division winners get an automatic berth into playoffs. However, seeding and HCA is based on record. So, for this season, it would be

    1. Dallas (keep hope alive 🙂 )
    2. SA
    3. Phoenix
    4. Memphis
    5. Clippers
    6. Denver
    7. Kings
    8. Lakers

    What is the point of being a 3 seed (denver) and not having HCA to a lower seed?

    In this scenario, you can have a really bad team win their division (if it happens to be really bad) but then they would likely be a 7th or 8th seed.

    Comment by Thinh -

    *** Dallas/SA clinched home court in the 3rd round before it could clinch home court in the 2nd round
    *** The 2nd seed, who normally gets home court once the 1st seed loses, cannot get home court in the 3rd round unless the 8th seed or 5th seed wins two rounds. (THE SPURS/MAVS WONT LOSE TO SAC/LAL, LAC/GRIZZ)
    *** The 3rd seed is more than likely to never have home court (WHY ARE THEY THE 3RD SEED THEN ?)
    *** The 5th seed, who is a top four record, will more than likely never have home court (THEY’LL BE OUT OF THE PO’S ANYWAYS IN THE 1ST ROUND, BUT IF THEY BEAT SA/DALLAS THEY WOULDN’T HAVE HC IN THE 2ND OR 3RD ROUNDS).
    *** The 6th seed will likely have home court in one round (HOW CAN THE 6TH SEED HAVE HC AND NOT THE 3RD SEED ?)

    Give me the Midwest Division back, this new format sucks _____. Dallas/SA is punished (seed-wise and financially-wise) with this format, even though they have the best 2 records in the west and top 3 in the league.

    Memphis/LA for example get HC (more money for them, and a better chance to win the round) with 15 wins LESS than the spurs/mavs, its like rewarding these teams for being bad, but being in some other division.

    Divisions are useless, proven with Denver this year they dont even get you HC, yet they are the 3rd seed. Divison winners should get a guaranteed playoff spot, but not a top 3 seed.

    Comment by Alex -

  17. For all those complaining about weak conferences, blah, blah, blah, just wait awhile and it will change. Remember when the Lakers, Portland, Seattle and Kings were all awesome. Someone’s always going to have a reason to change the playoffs. Problem is, when you change it some new scenario comes up and then people cry foul and want to change it again. Quit your crying and tough it out.

    Comment by El Stone -

  18. I’m a YaoMing fan, I think he is the MVP in the season, Though rockets can’t enter playoff……

    Comment by Yao -

  19. @#21:
    You say, fixing the divisions is the Solution and one of your divisions contains Denver-Phoenix-San Antonio-Sacramento-Utah
    Having a look back to last years records, you will have the best (PHX) and the second best (SAS) team in one division.
    As you can see, you can’t make an alignment at the beginning od a season, the only sensfull time would be at the end, what ist, as you will agree, totaly ridiculous.
    Shifting teams between division cannot be done, ’cause you don’t know how the season will finish.
    If you want to reward the division champs you will have to do it, like it’s done know, if you want a fair seeding, you’ll have to seed regarding the records.

    This season there is possibly a situation where losing meens winning HCA, but what about the draft lottery? For quite a long time it was good losing after missing the Playoffs to get a better chance in the draft lottery.

    ibinsfei (sorry for my english, I’m german 🙂 )

    Comment by ibinsfei -

  20. Mark, you crushed this one…I’ve been wondering the same for a while now. I know D Stern is mulling this one over with some Rolaids.

    Any clue on possible playoff dates??? Im gonna be in SoCal for Coachella the last week or so of April, even have tix for the second Lakers game, but no clue of dates. Any help would really make my day. Best of luck! That win in SA was HUGE!

    Comment by MJ -

  21. I agree with KB above (#9)…

    Comment by Davorama -

  22. The issue here isn’t the seeding. If you don’t reward the Division Champions, there’s no real point in having Divisions, and they are an important way to develop rivalries. All major professional sports have divisions and they all seed by Division winners. In fact, the NBA should award HCA by seeding, not by record; it’s silly to have a higher-seeded team not have HCA. As noted, the Division Champions ought to be rewarded with seeding advantages, so HCA should bend for seeding, not vice-versa.

    The problem here is the alignment. The Western Conference’s alignment is nutty. The divisions should be as follows:
    Dallas-Houston-Memphis-Minnesota-New Orleans/Oklahoma City
    Denver-Phoenix-San Antonio-Sacramento-Utah
    Golden State-Clippers-Lakers-Portland-Seattle

    As of now (April 6, 1:44pm EDT), that would make the following seedings:
    1. San Antonio
    2. Dallas
    3. Clippers
    4. Phoenix
    5. Memphis
    6. Denver
    7. Lakers
    8. Sacramento

    Reward the Division Champions. Fix the Divisions. Problem solved.

    Comment by Adam -

  23. Losing a game on purpose can be done, but is not done easily. This type of losing would create disension amongst the team. Could damage the rhythm of play for the future. Too much of a risk if you ask me, tempting though it is, especially from the more money angle. Naw,I wouldn’t do it,and either would you. Let the hidden hand of fate determine the outcome.

    Comment by JC -

  24. It sounds like you’re whining to me, and it makes me nauseous. At least your team will make the playoffs. You didn’t have to watch the Timberwolves the last 14 months: fire the league’s best coach; hire someone who is not ready to take his place; let Ron Artest go to the Kings because they don’t want to trade Sczerbiak for him, then trade Szcerbiak for a bunch of mismatched spare parts from the Celtics; I don’t have to tell you how they passed on Josh Howard in favor of Ndubi Ebi, a blunder that I believe cost them an NBA championship. After all that crap, I’m supposed to take your bellyaching seriously? No way. Are you afraid of the Clippers? Is that the real reason for your latest hissy fit? It must be, because you didn’t have a word to say about this subject last year, not that I can remember.
    If only the T-wolves had grabbed Artest while they had the chance: they’d have made the playoffs, and not the Kings, and then they could have beat your overpaid pack of whiners for the Western conference championship. Instead
    we poor Wolf fans get bupkis…nada…zilch…we
    don’t even get the thrill of writing Szcerbiak any more. So stop bitching, okay? Thank you.

    Comment by Thomas Snider -

  25. A radio station here in LA was speculating about two weeks ago about the Clippers doing this. I would not be surprised, especially with Donald Sterling sailing at the helm.

    Comment by Kunal -

  26. I don’t know about the Clippers, but it sounds like the Grizzlies are playing for home court advantage. The last few games should be interesting. Let the losing begin…,1426,MCA_475_4593996,00.html

    Comment by BlogMason -

  27. Interesting question Mark…
    Wouldn’t a basketball contest to lose simply be two teams switching the sides they take shots at?
    That is, scoring on their own goal? Seems to me the defense/offense would all translate to the opposite side of the court. Foul shooting would be odd though…you’d be forced back to your own goal so you’d want to hit the rim and miss but get the ball back. (unless shooting full court for the other goal from the foul line is legal…anybody know the answer to that one? 🙂

    Comment by Tim -

  28. This new system is totally ridiculous. Why penalize teams for being in a specific division? If an NBA team is good enough to have one of the top 4 records in the league, it deserves to have home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs and make a little more money.

    Comment by funny shirts -

  29. Why so pessimstic… Maybe they made some changes! :_

    Comment by Ted -

  30. I emailed you this solution back in Fall:

    Seedings 1-2 are the top 2 division records.
    Seedings 3-8 are the next 6 records in order. The 3rd best division winner, in this case the Nuggets, would only be guaranteed a playoff “spot” (somewhere 3-8), not a seeding position.

    With this idea, the seedings would be (assume things stay about the same):
    1. Spurs
    2. Suns
    3. Mavs
    4. Grizz
    5. Clippers
    6. Nuggets
    7. Lakers
    8. Kings

    Mavs would face Denver round 1, Suns round 2 and then defeat Spurs round 3.

    Bottom line: All those teams “down under” the 4th seed could be nasty. The West is nasty, and has been for some time, defeating the East on a 60% clip for quite a few years:

    Comment by greg -

  31. It’s not just a flaw, it’s absolute stupidity that a higher seeded team does not have home court advantage vs. their opponent. What’s the point of being seeded higher if you don’t get the full benefit? In terms of ‘losing’ to gain a playoff advantage, is this any different than lottery teams losing a few more games to perhaps get a better draft pick?

    Comment by Jay -

  32. Even though I’m a Spurs fan and no supporter of yours, Mark, I’m with you on the need for change in the NBA playoff seeding procedure. Maybe guarantee division winners HCA in the first round only (so winning your division is worth something), but do the overall seeds by record. In second round and beyond HCA goes to the team with the better record. There’s no excuse for a team with 60+ wins to be stuck at the #4 seed, or to (likely) have to play #1 in the second round.

    Comment by RB -

  33. Taking the fall in order to get a deal? Is Don King part of the NBA now?

    Comment by Joe Corey -

  34. Hey Mark,

    We all know that the sytem is flawed. I dont think that just because you are a division winner you should get a top three seed. (Glad you won your weak division, but your a 5 seed) Thats the way is should be.

    Anyways, what does it matter.


    Comment by KB -

  35. Hey Mark!

    I think the team owners and nba executives should sit down and discuss this “flaw” in the playoff seedings. this should definitely be changed.

    Why dont scrap that division title thing and just rank the team with respect to their number of wins.

    Go Mavs!

    Comment by MOG-Manila, Philippines -

  36. The system should be changed to reflect the win-loss records of each team only. Conference records should only be used as tiebreakers. It is a bad system when division winners are placed in to top seeds regardless of record, guaranteeing the six seed team will face a weaker team than the fifth seed in the West this year. Very unfair.

    Comment by Jeff Durham -

  37. It will be interesting to see if the Clippers decide to ‘dog’ it during their final two games versus the Mavericks. If that scenario should play out, perhaps the Mavs should ‘double dog’ it. A number one seed and a first round series versus the Kings or Lakers might be more dangerous than a 4th seed and a matchup with either the Clippers or Grizzlies.

    Jim Parham ~ Yuba City, CA

    Comment by BlogMason -

  38. Reminds me of this:

    Fun stuff… I don’t know what’s worse: that the NBA has designed a system in which such a thing is advantageous, or that teams just won’t score on themselves even if it’s to their advantage. I can only hope the Mavs are in such a situation in the future, as you’re the one team that might actually take advantage of this loophole. Though whether you do it for the competitive advantage in the playoffs, or to prove a point about a flaw in the system, will likely be up in the air 🙂

    Comment by Mike L -

  39. Interesting anomoloy Mark – sure, if you can’t make 3rd, then “lose” for 4th so you have home court advantage – makes tons of sense.

    So riddle me this Mark – if it were YOU (as an NBA owner) what would you do?!? 😉

    Comment by alek -

  40. Mark,

    I understand that you don’t like the idea that the Mavs will play San Antonio in the 2nd round, but do you really have to concoct a situation to say things need to be changed? Simply say, “I don’t like the two best teams in the west playing in the 2nd round” and be done with it.

    Comment by Jeff Harris -

  41. I don’t like the new playoff setup. I liked it more when there were only four divisions.

    Comment by Mentos -

  42. At least the NBA shifted to a 7-game first round play-off series contrary to baseball.

    From Michael Lewis’ “Moneyball”: “In a five-game series, the worst team in baseball will beat the best about 15 percent of the time … ” (p. 274)

    Comment by JohnD -

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