Should Eastern teams demand crossover NBA playoffs now?

Moses Moody (4) drives past Detroit Pistons guard Rodney McGruder (17). Mandatory Credit: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports
Moses Moody (4) drives past Detroit Pistons guard Rodney McGruder (17). Mandatory Credit: D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports /

With so many good teams in the Eastern Conference, every playoff series is going to be a knock-down, drag out fight, even in the first round. To ensure having the best teams in the NBA playoffs, would it not be fair to have crossovers between conferences in the post-season?

A few years ago, when the Western Conference teams were dominating those from the East, they created a loud hue and cry about how unfair the NBA playoff setup was.

As an example, in 2015, the Nets made the playoffs with a record of 38-44 while the Oklahoma City Thunder went 45-37 and were sitting home, as they did not make the playoffs in the West. The Milwaukee Bucks were the No. 6 seed in the East that year, even though they went 11-19 against Western teams.

(And this was before the play-in tournament, only top eight got in then)

Western teams declared how unfair it was. Proposals like making the playoffs bracketed 1 thru 16 strictly based on overall record, or having crossover in the semifinals, so the best two teams would play for the championship wre brought up.

Commissioner Adam Silver addressed the 1-16 playoff matchup back in 2018 (courtesy Sam Amico of Amico Hoops):

"“We’re serious about looking at it,” Silver said on a Nuggets radio broadcast. “We’re far from a place where there’s a solution. Of course it makes sense to seed teams 1-16 in the league, but we have two conferences that are geographically apart.”"

In terms of pure fairness, seeding all the teams based on record would seem the right idea. But, there are a lot of problems with that.

light. Related Story. Detroit Pistons: Is the Eastern Conference now better than the West?

Why crossover or one big field does not work for NBA playoffs

First among them, in the interest of fairness, all teams would have to play the same schedule. Right now, teams play those in their conference 3 or 4 times, while they compete against the other conference twice.

Now if this was the National Basketball Association of Luxembourg, or any other tiny country, no problem. But the continental United States has four time zones.

Remember when the Pistons make their West Coast trips, they basically disappear from sports fans, with games starting at 10:30 or 11 p.m.  An all-even schedule would mean more West Coast games.

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You think Bally Sports Detroit wants even more games that end at 1 or 1:30 a.m.? You think Spectrum Sportsnet (which shows the Lakers non-national TV games) wants to have more 4 p.m. (Pacific time) weekday games? Uh, nope.

The point that really sunk either of those proposals happening is the handicap teams that were involved in long-distance playoff series would face in the next round.

Detroit Pistons would be at advantage if a crossover

Imagine Detroit playing Cleveland in one series with the winner facing the Miami vs. Portland winner? Think either Miami or Portland will be happy crisscrossing the country, knowing their next opponent could take a bus to their away games?

But the East is now lopsidedly better than the West. The Warriors pretty much breezed through the Western playoffs, with none of its three series’ going seven games.

If the Pistons were in the West (which they were until 1968), they probably could have 8-10 more wins than they will in the rugged East. If Indiana keeps Myles Turner and Buddy Hield, even the Pacers won’t be bad.

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If Detroit makes the Play-in tournament this season, they will probably face a team much better  that any team in the Western play-in, but there is nothing right now that can be done about it.