So the postings of a few people on this topic got me thinking. How would the NBA look if they cut it down to less teams. What woud the makeup of teams be? How would the season and playoffs be different? Here's what I was thinking. You take the average NBA attendence of all 30 teams over the past 10 years. Then using that you remove 6 teams from the league, using barometers to differentiate between some teams, i.e team performance, history, etc. For example, the Pacers fal into the list of one of the bottom ten teams, but they have at least some significant basketball history and their fans show up when the team is good due to Indiana being a big basketball state so they wouldn't be one of the 6. The Hawks are the worst over the last ten years, but Atlanta is a good spots market and with the team rising, they are starting to fill up again. Add in some semblance of history and they make the cut. Below is the average attendance figures for NBA teams over the last ten years.
So after all these things are considered, I think ultimately the 6 teams that would be contracted are: Memphis Grizzlies, Charlotte Bobcats, New Orleans Hornets (sorry GO), New Jersey Nets, Orlando Magic, and Milwaukee Bucks. However, due to the Magic being a premier team right now and with Toronto losing Chris Bosh, I think the NBA would contrct the Raptors since basketball has never taken off in Canada anyways and the team appears headed towards a long rebuilding process if it maintains existece.
That leaves 24 teams in the NBA. From that you put 12 in each conference, two divisions of 6. From there, you have 4 teams in each conference make the playoffs at the end of the season (you could do 6 and give byes to the top 2, ala football, either would work). The new divisions would look something like this, again using geography to decide most of the spots. And since under this format, the East would lose 4 of the 6 teams, the West would have to ship a team to the East to make this work out. The Timberwolves would make the most sense since geographically they are closest to some of the eastern conference teams. The two division winners make it as the top 2 seeds and then depending on whether its 4 or 6 teams, the next 2 or 4 best records make it.
New York Knicks
Understandably right now the Atlantic Division is so much stronger than the Central but that happens from time to time. If this were the l90's, these divisions wold be somewhat even. It goes in cycles.
Oklahoma City Thunder
San Antonio Spurs
Los Angelas Lakers
Los Angelas Clippers
Golden State Warriors
Every team plays every team in its division 6 times: 5 x 6 = 30 games
Every team plays the other division 4 times: 6 x 4 = 24 games
Every team plays the other conference 2 times: 12 x 3 = 36 games
Totals out to 90 games. 8 more games which Im sure most people wouldn't like given the season stretches to the end of June already. However, with less teams qualifying for the post-season it could hav a baseball like effect where come May, you have 7-8 teams battling it out for only 4 playoff spots as oppose to having teams clinch by Febuary because practically everyone nowadays makes the playoffs. And you know owners would be happy with 4 more games to make revenue.
What this new league does for the NBA:
1) Cuts down on the deadweight- 6 less teams means you can get rid of the 90 worst players remaining in the league and have stronger teams as well as a better product on the floor. Teams won't be rolling out Brian Scalabrine's, D.J. Mbega's, etc. Also this makes the difference between the best and worst teams much closer. The fact an NBA team can win only 12 games a year is embarassing. Under this new format, though the top teams would be better as well so you may think "Well it all balances out", almost every team woud have an all-star worthy player. No more teams rolling out mediocre talent. What do you do with the 90 players left over from the folded teams? You have a draft. Imagine having a draft right now with Gerald Wallace, Chris Paul, Brandon Jennings, Brook Lopez, Devin Harris, Zach Randolph, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Marc Gasol, etc, in it. All the bottom feeders would instantly add a proven all-star player and help narrow the gap between the Heats and Lakers of the world from the 76ers and Timberwolves of the world.
2) Enhance Rivalries- Smaller league means seeing the same team over and over. Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain played something like 150 times in their careers against one another. As it is now, you could catch the Heat once at home when one of the Big 3 is out. Granted in this new format, every other year you would only get them once at home, but your team still sees them more. Playing a division rival 6 times a year will do wonders to raise the hate level between the two teams. You see the stars of the league more as it is whether in person or on TV as your team will play every team more given thats at least 10 games you would have had against the 6 contracted teams that you don't have to worry about anymore. Its no secret why people always refernece the older eras when pointing out great rivalries. You have a hard time making them work now because with 30 teams you don't get to play the other teams nearly as much.
3) Less chance of boring playoff series- Instead of having teams slip into an 8 seed with a barely .500% record and torturing us through 4-5 boring games where the team who will advance is hardly ever in doubt, you jump right into big-time playoff series. With only 4 teams (or again perhaps 6) making the post-season in a league where the roster talent would rise, you'd likely have multiple all-stars playing against one another for 6-7 games if these were the playoff teams that survived the more talented and converged league. Think back to the 80's when after the Bad Boy Pistons might have squared off with Bird and McHale's Celtics, the winner was looking forward to a series with Moses and Dr. J, who might have just finshed a series with the talented Cavs or Bucks teams of the 80's, ultimately culminating in Finals mathcup with the Magic and Kareem Lakers, or Twin Tower Rockets teams. This also would go to enhancing rivalries, as less teams = greater likelihood that you would see the same opponents in the post-season during stretches.
Its all hypothetical and probably won't happen anytime soon because thats 6 less teams the NBA can make revenue from, but ultimately I think it would improve the product of the NBA immensely. And hey, a fan can dream can't he.....