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Basketball Insiders Week in Review 11/9

Basketball Insiders looks back at some of the articles from last week in case you missed any the first time around.

Kyle Cape-Lindelin

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Fantasy: Which NBA Injuries Are Worrisome?

By Susan Bible

The 2014-15 NBA season hasn’t even reached the end of one full week and already fantasy owners are groaning over injuries.

Seasoned owners analyze the injury status of desired players prior to draft day, weighing the damage of missed games against the benefit of eventual return. Of course, some are no-brainers. Kevin Durant (foot surgery) wasn’t among the top two picks in most leagues this season, but he didn’t fall far in the first round. No return date has been provided for the reigning MVP, but he’s projected to return in December. Even Steve Nash was a gamble despite the gushing eyewitness reports all summer of his healthy return. Those who drafted Nash were sorely disappointed when he was officially ruled out for the year (back pain) just five days before the season started.

 

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How the 2014 Lottery Picks Fared in NBA Debuts

By Jessica Camerato

The 2014 NBA Draft was one of the most highly anticipated in years. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid were touted as players who could have a huge long-term impact on an organization. Others looked ready to make immediate contributions.

Their names were announced as draft picks in late June. Four months later, they were introduced as NBA players. See how the 2014 lottery picks performed in their debuts:

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Extensions Not Always What They Seem

By Steve Kyler

As the season wound down last year, an NBA player posed the question to me, “What do you think the Magic will offer Tobias Harris?” The question was more about trying to gauge his own value, but it also framed the question of what is a guy that averaged 14 points and seven rebounds per game on a team that won 23 games really worth?

Just around Labor Day, the Magic reached out to Harris’ camp to start the conversation and offer up the idea of a deal in the $9 million per year range. Harris’ camp was seeking something more substantial. Those talks were cordial and ended without any sense of progress. The two sides never talked numbers or negotiated again.

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Fantasy NBA: How to Survive Injuries

By Joel Brigham

Three of the eight teams that made the Conference Semifinals in last year’s playoffs have been hit by the injury bug in a nasty way to start this new NBA season, resulting in what has been, in some cases, a pretty disappointing first week of the fantasy season.

Oklahoma City and Indiana, for example, are shells of their formers selves thanks to the loss three players with All-NBA honors on their resumes: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Paul George. They aren’t the only frustrating injuries these teams have had, however; Oklahoma City has also been playing without Reggie Jackson, while Indiana has gone without C.J. Watson and George Hill, Washington has gone without Bradley Beal, Orlando has gone without Victor Oladipo and New York has gone without Jose Calderon.

For fantasy purposes, this is no good, since a lot of these were players that you drafted. So how do you survive while these studs get healthy? Figure out who’s going to get the minutes in their absence and try to ride them if you can.

Here are a few of the better replacement guys through the first week of the season:

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Young Believes ‘Sky’s the Limit’ for Wolves

By Alex Kennedy

After being acquired by the Minnesota Timberwolves in August’s blockbuster trade involving Kevin Love, Thaddeus Young has emerged as one of the team’s most important players this season. Not only has Young been one of the Timberwolves’ most productive players, he has also been a strong veteran leader for the team, which is crucial since the Wolves have seven players who are 24 years old or younger.

In the first two games of the season, Young averaged 22.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, three assists and 2.5 steals. He shot 54.8 percent from the field and 57.1 percent from three-point range. He also hit a clutch three-pointer with 90 seconds remaining against the Detroit Pistons, which helped Minnesota secure their first victory of the season.

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Williams Brings Valuable Experience to Raptors’ Second Unit

By Cody Taylor

The Toronto Raptors snapped a five-season playoff drought last year when they won 48 games and the Atlantic Division crown. Even though the Raptors were the only division winner in the league to notch less than 50 wins last season, the team still earned themselves lofty expectations heading into the 2014-15 season.

The league saw plenty of moves this past offseason, with many teams signing key free agents and improving through trades. Some big changes occurred in the Atlantic Division that will greatly impact Toronto. The New York Knicks hired head coach Derek Fisher to run the triangle offense and added Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Jason Smith, Shane Larkin, Quincy Acy and Cleanthony Early. The Boston Celtics acquired Marcus Smart, James Young, Evan Turner, Marcus Thornton and Tyler Zeller. The Brooklyn Nets hired Lionel Hollins and brought in Bojan Bogdanovic, Jarrett Jack, Cory Jefferson, Jerome Jordan, Sergey Karasev and Jorge Gutierrez.

With so many teams opting to make changes to their roster to remain competitive, the Raptors didn’t feel any pressure to make any drastic transactions. The biggest move of the offseason for the Raptors was re-signing Kyle Lowry to a four-year, $48 million deal. In addition to re-signing Lowry, the team also re-signed Greivis Vasquez to a two-year deal and Patrick Patterson to a three-year deal.

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NBA Rookie Of The Year Watch: Parker on top

By Jesse Blancarte

It is just week two of the NBA season, but that doesn’t mean it’s too early to look at which rookies are standing out and making an early case for the Rookie of the Year award. The 2014 draft class has been lauded as one of the deepest classes in recent memory and unlike past seasons, there are several legitimate candidates to win the award. However, not every notable rookie is part of the 2014 draft class. There are some overseas players, like Nikola Mirotic and Kostas Papanikolaou, who came over to the NBA this season, and are likely to have a big impact for their teams. In addition, Philadelphia 76ers center Nerlens Noel missed all of last season, which technically makes him a rookie this season.

With such a small sample size to analyze at this point, we will consider things like which players are showing an NBA-ready skill-set, earning significant playing time, and showing an ability to be a difference-maker for their team, in addition to per game statistics.

Here are 10 rookies that have made an early impression so far this season.

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Lakers’ Struggles a Necessity

By Yannis Koutroupis

At 0-5 the Los Angeles Lakers are off to their worst start since leaving Minneapolis, yet as each loss makes history in the wrong way, it also creates hope for the future that they actually need more than wins right now.

The Lakers have been notorious for reloading quickly rather than rebuilding, especially since the start of the Kobe Bryant era back in 1996. They missed the playoffs just once after trading away Shaquille O’Neal, the league’s most dominant presence at the time, in 2005. Two years later, they were back in the Finals thanks to the acquisition of Pau Gasol and the development of Andrew Bynum.

After missing the playoffs last year for just the fifth time since their move from Los Angeles in 1960, the Lakers had hopes of another quick reloading period this offseason by trying to lure Carmelo Anthony away from Big Apple. For years they privately planned to go after LeBron James, but knew before free agency even started that they weren’t going to be strongly considered by the league’s top player, who was choosing exclusively between the Miami HEAT and Cleveland Cavaliers – not giving other teams any type of serious consideration other than cordial meetings with his agent. They also showed interest in Chris Bosh, but Anthony was always the most obtainable target – and they almost had him. Anthony, who originally wasn’t even going to meet with the Lakers because of their state at the time, left their pitch meeting sold on his ability to succeed there. Gasol was going to re-sign if Anthony made the cross country move, but in the end the money and potential to succeed so close to his hometown with the New York Knicks was too great for Anthony to pass on.

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Travis Wear Takes Road Less Traveled to the NBA

By Tommy Beer

Quicken Loans Arena is rocking.

It’s the 2014-15 Cleveland Cavaliers home opener, which means it’s the first time the folks in Cleveland can fully embrace LeBron James’ return to the city.

The Cavs jump out to early double-digit lead and the fans inside “The Q” are going crazy, giddy with hope and excitement.

With one minute and 30 seconds remaining in the first quarter, unheralded rookie Travis Wear checks into the game to replace franchise cornerstone Carmelo Anthony.

Wear’s defensive assignment? A guy named LeBron James.

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Blame McGrady: Is Irving for Rondo Legal?

By Eric Pincus

Initially, the Cleveland Cavaliers have not taken the NBA by storm, struggling to blend the talents of LeBron James, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving.

Irving, in particular, as the “point guard” is dishing just 3.8 assists a game through Cleveland’s 1-3 start, including a 34-point, zero-assist effort on Wednesday in a loss to the Utah Jazz.

That’s former NBA All-Star Tracy McGrady giving his two cents on the Cavaliers, referring to Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo.

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Frustration Building in Oklahoma City

By Lang Greene

The Oklahoma City Thunder have been one of the most successful teams in the NBA over the past few seasons, but to start the 2014-15 campaign the franchise has been besieged by a rash of injuries to key rotation members.

The Thunder have quickly descended from a title contender expected to win the majority of their games, to a team who would be happy hovering near .500 until reigning MVP Kevin Durant (foot) and All-Star Russell Westbrook (hand) return to the lineup.

Frustrations boiled over in the Thunder’s road loss to Brooklyn with veterans Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka effectively freezing out guard Reggie Jackson after the pair became unhappy with his play. Jackson was just returning from injury and was noticeably aggressive in seeking out his own shot attempts.

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NBA MVP Watch 11/7/14

By Jabari Davis

It may seem a bit early to be discussing the Most Valuable Player award and any end-of-season acknowledgement for that matter, but here at Basketball Insiders we tend to look at it as a progressive assessment throughout the season. For us, part of what makes sports – basketball in particular – so exciting are the ongoing debates and conversations about records, awards and accomplishments. Every week, we’ll be releasing our NBA MVP Watch, where we look at the top candidates for the award.

We’ve already seen several pre-season candidates for this year’s MVP award succumb to early-season injuries, which gives other players an opportunity to join the discussion. Kevin Durant’s foot should heal in time for him to play at least 65 games, but the odds are against the league’s reigning MVP finding a way to repeat the feat. The Western Conference looks like a merciless and unforgiving trek once again, so it will be interesting to see and track the impact Durant is able to make upon returning, once he works himself into game-shape and gets back into the Oklahoma City Thunder’s flow. While Durant and potentially even teammate Russell Westbrook could conceivably return in time to play themselves back into the conversation, it is nice to see a few new names within the mix to go along with some of the usual suspects.

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Kyle Cape-Lindelin is based out of Portland, OR covering the NBA while being one of the newsline editors and contributor to "Out of Bounds."

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NBA Daily: Tobias Harris Thrives at Every Stop

Tobias Harris was traded yet again, but thankfully for the Clippers, he’s gotten better every stop he’s made.

Joel Brigham

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When Tobias Harris was a 19-year-old rookie for the Milwaukee Bucks, he faced a lot of the same issues that other 19-year-old rookies before him had faced, most notably the ones dealing with a lack of playing time.

He only saw the floor in 42 games, playing on 11 minutes per contest when he did get out there.

Despite that, it was somewhat of a surprise that the Bucks gave up on his talent so early in his career, trading him to the Orlando Magic just 28 games into his sophomore season as part of a trade for J.J. Redick.

The Magic immediately tripled his minutes, and he’s never been a 30 minutes-per-game guy ever since. He also has never said a negative thing about any team he’s ever played for. As far as he’s concerned, every opportunity is a blessing and a learning experience.

“I didn’t look at Milwaukee as a team giving up on me. I looked at it as Orlando valuing me and seeing me as a piece of the puzzle,” Harris told Basketball Insiders during All-Star Weekend, where he participated in the three-point contest.

“The NBA is about opportunity, so when you get the opportunity you have to make the most of it. Going from a rookie not playing to where I’m at now, it takes a lot of hard work, focus and determination,” he said. “You have to have the confidence in your own self, to understand you can break through in this league.”

And break through he did, in large part because those first 18 months as a professional were so challenging.

“Adversity helped me to work hard,” he said. “I always envisioned myself as a primetime player in this league. I have a ways to go to get there, but that’s the best part about me. My best basketball is ahead of me, and adversity has helped me get there. It’s motivated me, and I want to be the best player I can be. I’m trying every single day to fight for that.”

This season, most of which came as a member of the Detroit Pistons, was a career-best for Harris.

Between the Pistons and L.A. Clippers, Harris has averaged a career-high 18 points per game, and while he wasn’t voted to the All-Star Team this year, his name popped up in the conversation. He’s never been closer.

It was bittersweet for him, though, leaving a Detroit team he liked so much.

“My favorite part was being around those guys [in Detroit],” he said. “It was a great group of guys and a great coaching staff. Coach Van Gundy is a great coach. At the same time, when I first got there, we had a chance to make the playoffs and we got in the playoffs. That was nice for me, to put that pressure on myself and get it done.”

Now, he’s ready to accept his next challenge in Los Angeles with the Clippers.

“I look at every new opportunity as a new chance,” he said. “My first trade from Milwaukee to Orlando was a situation where I just wanted to prove myself to the league. When I was traded from Orlando to Detroit, it was a situation where I wanted to help the team get to the playoffs, and that’s similar to this one here, too… I really like the group of guys that are on this team. I like our demeanor and our approach, so after the break I look forward to building that chemistry and moving forward.”

Of course, moving forward is all he’s ever done.

After everything he’s proven to date, it seems like a given that he’ll continue to make strides with his new team.

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2018 NBA All-Star Sunday Recap

Michael Petrower recaps the All-Star Game from Sunday in Los Angeles.

Basketball Insiders

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The 2018 NBA All Star Game had some added appeal this year, with Captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry selecting playground style from the pool of All-Stars. Although it was not televised, it drew a lot of interest to say the least.

Team Lebron was headlined by Kevin Durant (the alleged first pick), Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, and Kyrie Irving. Sadly, Team Lebron suffered big losses with John Wall, Demarcus Cousins, Kevin Love and Kristaps Porzingis going down with injuries. Team Stephen was led by Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Joel Embiid and Demar DeRozan.

NBA fans were ready to indulge on the highlight real of plays to commence…That was, until the NBA inflicted a marathon-like performance that seemed a bit unnecessary, to say the least. Kevin Hart was at the center of theatrics that had NBA fans scratching their heads questioning what was on their television screen. Fergie topped off the saga with what was one of the more questionable national anthems we’ve seen in recent years. However, if you stuck around long enough, the game started at 8:40 PM EST and the flashy plays that we hoped for, began.

Joel Embiid made his first A;l-Star game appearance and kicked off the scoring festivities for Team Stephen with a ferocious and-one dunk. Team Stephen led all of the first quarter and won the quarter 42-31. Karl Anthony Towns led the first quarter scoring with 11 points. Team LeBron, however would storm back and cut the lead to two, 78-76 at half. LeBron came into his 14th straight All-Star game and lead his team at the half with 15 points. Klay Thompson also lead Team Stephen with 15 points at half.

The second half ensued and after some back and forth between the two teams, Team Stephen was leading by three going into the fourth quarter, 112-109. Team Stephen grew their lead to 11 while LeBron and KD got some rest. But after the two came back in, the 11-point deficit was erased after a LeBron three and the teams were now tied at 144 with 1:16 left in the fourth quarter.

DeRozan would make a free throw to put Team Stephen up one point, but Lebron followed with a strong two-pointer to put his team up one. DeRozan tried to answer, but threw away a pass which resulted in an easy two points for Russell Westbrook to ice the game. Team LeBron was the 2018 All Star Game winner with a score of 148-145.

LeBron James went on to win his third All Star MVP after finishing with 29 points to go along with 10 rebounds, eigh assists and a steal on 12-17 shooting. DeRozan and Damian Lillard lead Team Stephen with 21 points each.

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Rest Assured, the 1-16 NBA Playoff Format Is Coming… Kinda

Based on Adam Silver’s comments, it’s safe to assume that the NBA will soon reformat the playoffs.

Moke Hamilton

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If there’s one thing Adam Silver has proven in his four years as the NBA’s Commissioner, it’s that he isn’t afraid to do things his way.

And if Silver has his way, the league will eventually figure out how it can implement a system that results in a more balanced playoff system. On Saturday, though, he revealed that it’s probably closer to a reality than many of us realize.

During his annual All-Star media address, Silver admitted that the league will “continue to look at” how they can reformat the playoffs to both ensure a better competitive balance throughout and pave the way for the league’s two best teams to meet up in the NBA Finals, even if both of those two teams happen to be in the same conference.

“You also would like to have a format where your two best teams are ultimately going to meet in the Finals,” the commissioner said on Saturday night.

“You could have a situation where the top two teams in the league are meeting in the conference finals or somewhere else. So we’re going to continue to look at that. It’s still my hope that we’re going to figure out ways.”

Since Silver took over the league, he’s been consistent in implementing dramatic changes to improve the overall quality of the game. Although Silver didn’t take over as the league’s commissioner until 2014, he was instrumental in getting the interested parties to buy into the notion that the “center” designation on the All-Star ballot was obsolete.

As a result, beginning with the 2013 All-Star Game, the Eastern and Western Conference teams have featured three “frontcourt” players, which essentially lumps centers in with forwards and eliminates the requirement that a center appear in the All-Star game. That wasn’t always the case.

From overhauling the league’s scheduling to reducing back-to-back games to implementing draft lottery reform, he clearly has his eyes open. On Silver’s watch, the league also eliminated the traditional All-Star format which featured the Eastern Conference versus the Western Conference, and it’s become clear that he simply gets it. Silver isn’t afraid to make revolutionary changes if he deems them to be in the overall best interest of the league.

At this point, everyone realizes that something needs to be done about the league’s current playoff system.

Last season, for example, the Western Conference first round playoff series featured the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder squaring off against one another. Only one series—the Los Angeles Clippers versus Utah Jazz—went seven games.

Meanwhile, in the Eastern Conference, the first round series that were contested weren’t exactly compelling.

The Cleveland Cavaliers steamrolled the conference to the tune of a 12-1 run to their third consecutive trip to the NBA Finals. It wasn’t the first time that the public questioned the wisdom behind separating the playoff brackets by conference, but the dominance of the Cavs and LeBron James specifically (who is expected to win the Eastern Conference for the eighth consecutive time this season) has caused renewed scrutiny.

The most common solution offered to this point has been to simply take the 16 best teams across the league, irrespective of conference, and conduct the playoffs as normal.

From afar, this solution seems simple enough, but the obvious concerns are twofold.

First, if the Celtics and Clippers, for example, were pitted against one another in a first round series, the travel would be considerable. Private charter flight or not, traveling is taxing, and the prospect of having to make five cross-country trips over the course of a two-week span would certainly leave the winner of such a series at a competitive disadvantage against the opponents they would face in subsequent rounds, especially if the future opponent enjoyed a playoff series that was contested within close proximity.

Atlanta to New Orleans, for example, is less than a one-hour flight.

Aside from the concerns about geographic proximity, the other obvious issue is competitive balancing of the schedule, which seems to be an easier issue to fix.

Using the Pelicans as an example, of the 82 games they play, 30 are played against the other conference—in this case, the Eastern Conference. The other 52 games would all be played within the conference. If playoff seedings were going to be done on a simple 1-16 basis, the scheduling would have to be realigned in a way to essentially pit all teams against one another evenly. It wouldn’t be fair for a team like the Celtics to be judged on the same standard as the Pelicans if the Celtics faced inferior teams more often.

On Saturday night, Silver revealed that the league’s brass has been thinking about this and is trying to find a solution, and in doing so, he may have tipped his hand.

* * * * * *

As a multinational conglomerate, the NBA values the inclusion of as many markets as possible. Wanting to improve the overall quality of the product, though, there are interests that may not align fully.

What’s obvious with this year’s All-Star game is that the NBA has found a way to balance the two.

Rather than eliminating the conference designations altogether and simply choosing the “best” 24 players to be in the All-Star game, the league still chose All-Stars based on their conference, but then distributed them within the pool to allow for better competition.

That’s exactly what Silver revealed the NBA is considering doing with the playoffs. It makes perfect sense, and it’s probably just a matter of time before it’s implemented.

A report from ESPN notes that the idea that the league is kicking around would essentially do exactly what the league did with the All-Star selections with the playoff teams: choose the best from each conference, then disburse them in a way that allows for competitive balance. 

The proposal would have the league’s teams compete as they normally do and would still feature the top eight teams from each conference getting into the playoffs.

Once the teams are qualified, however, they would be re-seeded on a 1-16 basis and crossmatched, on that basis.

It’s not perfect, but compromises never are. The travel issues would still persist, but the league would accomplish two goals: the less dominant conference wouldn’t be underrepresented and discouraged from competing, but the two best teams would still be on opposite ends of the bracket.

An NBA playoffs that featured 11 or 12 teams from the Western Conference would be a ratings nightmare for the league. Eastern Conference cities are less likely to stay up past midnight during the week to watch playoff games, and less competitive markets would frown at the prospect of having to compete against the other conference for a playoff spot. For many small market teams, the millions of dollars generated from a single playoff game often has a significant impact on the team’s operations, so there would naturally be discord.

This system would at least eliminate that contention.

On the positive side, it would allow for the Rockets and Warriors, for example, to meet in the NBA Finals. In both the NFL and MLB, geography hasn’t been a determining factor on which teams battle for the league’s championship.

Why does it have to be in the NBA?

* * * * * *

With the league having begun regular season play earlier this season, at the All-Star break, most teams have played about 57 games. A lot can change over the final 25 games of the season, but if the seeds were frozen today and the league took the top eight teams from each conference and then crossmatched them, the Los Angeles Clippers would be the team that got the short end o the stick.

Although the Clippers have the 16th best record in the league, they would be the ninth-seeded Western Conference team and would thus be eliminated from postseason contention by the Miami HEAT. The HEAT have the 17th best record in the league but are the eighth-best team in the Eastern Conference, so to preserve the conference weight, the HEAT would win out.

This is what the seedings and matchups would look like…

(1) Houston Rockets versus (16) Miami HEAT

(2) Golden State Warriors versus (15) New Orleans Pelicans

(3) Toronto Raptors versus (14) Philadelphia 76ers

(4) Boston Celtics versus (13) Portland Trail Blazers

(5) Cleveland Cavaliers versus (12) Denver Nuggets

(6) San Antonio Spurs versus (11) Oklahoma City Thunder

(7) Minnesota Timberwolves versus (10) Milwaukee Bucks

(8) Washington Wizards versus (9) Indiana Pacers

Here, the Celtics would face the nightmarish scenario of having to travel to and from Portland for their playoff series, while virtually every other series would feature much more friendly travel (especially the Spurs-Thunder and Raptors-Sixers).

The Cavs would have a very tough road to the Finals, having to beat the Nuggets, Celtics and Rockets if the seeds held. The Celtics would have a similarly tough road, as they’d have to get past the Blazers, Cavs and Rockets.

At the end of the day, the Rockets and Warriors would be aligned in such a way as to avoid one another until the championship, but each of the two would face daunting competition. The Rockets would have to go through the HEAT, Wizards and Celtics, while the Warriors would have to face the Pelicans, Timberwolves and Raptors—again, assuming the seeds held.

It would be a benefit to all observers.

One of the unintended consequences of implementing this system would be to make every single game count. If the Celtics were able to move up to the second seed, for example, their road to the Finals, in theory, could become much much easier, comparatively speaking.

The end result would be less resting of players during the course of the season and certainly less instances in which star players take the final week of the regular season off in order to be fresh for the postseason.

Everyone wins.

No, there’s no perfect solution, but just as the league has found a clever way to serve multiple interests as it relates to the All-Star game’s competitiveness, Silver has revealed that the league is at least considering following suit with the playoffs.

Best bet?

It’s only a matter of time before we see it actually see it happen.

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