Notable Players Still in Free Agent Pool
Every year, a number of players are signed by NBA teams in the middle of the season. While most free-agent acquisitions happen over the summer, some important moves occur after the games begin as well. There are plenty of talented free agents who stay ready throughout the season in case a team comes calling.
Sometimes, these midseason additions become important contributors for their new team, with San Antonio Spurs forward Boris Diaw, Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley and Miami HEAT center Chris Andersen being perfect examples.
Who could be a midseason steal this season? Here’s a look at some of the notable veterans who are still unsigned. NOTE: This list doesn’t include players who are overseas. That will be a separate article, with players who may sign with an NBA team after completing their overseas commitment.
Ray Allen, 39 years old, 18-year veteran – Allen hasn’t officially announced whether he’ll play this season, but many people around the league believe he’ll sign at some point during the campaign. Just about every contender in the league is showing interest in the sharpshooter, and waiting to sign allows him to ensure he’ll be joining a team with a realistic shot at the title and one that has a significant role for him. Allen can obviously still contribute; he averaged 9.6 points per game last year on the Miami HEAT and hit perhaps the biggest shot of his career the year before, which helped Miami go on to win the championship over the San Antonio Spurs. Allen is also highly coveted for his leadership, as he’s a strong veteran presence and knows what it takes to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy. A new rumor involving Allen seems to pop up every week, and his camp has been quick to shoot them all down, but don’t be surprised if he signs at some point during this season.
Emeka Okafor, 32 years old, 9-year veteran – The only reason Okafor isn’t already on an NBA roster is because he is still recovering from a herniated disc in his back. There has been a lot of interest in Okafor’s services, but it doesn’t seem like he’ll be ready to play until December or January at the earliest. Once Okafor is healthy, expect many teams to come calling. He’s a very good rim protector who has been a starting-caliber big man throughout his career. He has never averaged less than a block per game in any of his nine NBA seasons, and he last averaged 9.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and one block during his stint with the Washington Wizards in 2012-13. The Cleveland Cavaliers would make a lot of sense for Okafor, as they lack a rim protector and only have 12 fully-guaranteed contracts (Alex Kirk, Will Cherry and Lou Amundson aren’t guaranteed).
Gal Mekel, 26 years old, 1-year veteran – Mekel was waived by the Dallas Mavericks when they signed J.J. Barea. The Mavericks could’ve traded the young point guard, but the situations on the table weren’t very appealing for Mekel so they waived him instead to do right by him. Mekel nearly signed with the Indiana Pacers as their hardship exemption player, but a visa issue got in the way and the Pacers had to settle for A.J. Price instead (as detailed in-depth here). Now, Mekel is training on his own and staying in game shape. His salary for this season and next season were fully guaranteed, so he will be paid whether he joins a team or not. This allows him to be patient and wait for the right opportunity to present itself rather than jumping at the first offer he receives. A number of teams are intrigued by Mekel, according to sources, and he could be the next floor general signed with other point guards like Price and Ish Smith off the market.
Quincy Miller, 21 years old, 2-year veteran – Unlike many of the players on this list, Miller is still extremely young and full of potential. If you recall, Miller was being projected as a future NBA star (and likely lottery pick) back when he was a high school star. While he hasn’t lived up to those expectations (dropping to the second round in 2012 and recently being waived by the Denver Nuggets despite having a guaranteed deal), it’s far too early to give up on the Baylor product. He has only spent two seasons in the NBA and played sparingly. However, he still has some upside as well as the versatility to play multiple positions. A number of teams are reportedly intrigued by Miller including the Indiana Pacers, L.A. Lakers and Houston Rockets (with L.A. working him out later this week), so he’ll likely be signed sooner than later.
Will Bynum, 31 years old, 7-year veteran – Bynum was traded from the Detroit Pistons to the Boston Celtics in exchange for Joel Anthony, and then Boston waived him shortly after. Bynum suffered a strained hamstring during the preseason, but his camp insists that he’s completely healthy now. The veteran guard has been training in his hometown of Chicago as he waits to join a new NBA team. Last season in Detroit, Bynum averaged 8.7 points and 3.9 assists off of the bench. He has been a productive reserve throughout his seven years in the NBA, and could be brought in to strengthen a team’s second unit. Bynum’s 2014-15 salary ($2,915,908) was fully guaranteed, so he can afford to take his time and wait for the right situation to present itself.
Dante Cunningham, 27 years old, 5-year veteran – Six months ago, Cunningham was arrested for domestic assault and spent time in a jail cell. Later on, the charges were dropped and a police investigation found that the accuser had lied and tried to frame Cunningham by sending herself threatening messages. However, the incident was enough to keep Cunningham from being signed when his contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves expired over the offseason. Now, Cunningham is trying to clear his name and resume his career. He’s working out near Penn State, where one of his college teammates is coaching, and waiting for a call from a team. His agent Joel Bell told the Associated Press that one team said they couldn’t afford the public-relations backlash that would come from signing Cunningham, given the negative headlines that athletes with domestic violence charges have made lately. The 27-year-old has been productive throughout his career and the facts seem to be on his side, so it’s possible that an NBA team will give him the benefit of the doubt and sign him at some point this season.
Jermaine O’Neal, 36 years old, 18-year veteran – It remains to be seen if O’Neal will suit up again in the NBA. Over the last few years, he has openly talked about retirement and seriously considered it over the summer. However, he didn’t announce that he was walking away from the game, so for now we’ll assume that he’s still a free agent option. O’Neal obviously has a lot of wear and tear on his body after playing 18 seasons in the NBA, but he has held up pretty well. After a rough two-year stint with the Boston Celtics, O’Neal bounced back with two solid seasons – one with the Phoenix Suns and one with the Golden State Warriors. O’Neal was a solid rebounder and interior defender, and when pressed into the starting lineup due to injuries last year in Golden State, he came through by averaging 10.5 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 13 games. Don’t be surprised if O’Neal joins a team this season and puts on an NBA jersey one last time.
Earl Clark, 26 years old, 5-year veteran – The last few weeks have been a roller-coaster ride for Clark. He spent training camp with the Memphis Grizzlies, who waived him in late October. The Houston Rockets immediately claimed Clark off of waivers, but then cut him three days later. He then joined the Iowa Energy of the D-League, only to be traded Rio Grande Valley Vipers the following day. Now, he’s still on the Vipers’ roster and can be called up by any NBA team. It was just two years ago that Clark emerged as a significant contributor for the Los Angeles Lakers, taking Pau Gasol’s starting job at one point. He wasn’t able to sustain that success with the Cleveland Cavaliers and then the New York Knicks, which is why he finds himself in the D-League. However, he could be an interesting call-up option, as he has shown that he can be a solid two-way player who provides energy off of the bench.
Rashard Lewis, 35 years old, 16-year veteran – Lewis inked a one-year, $1.4 million deal with the Dallas Mavericks over the offseason, but the offer was pulled off of the table after he failed his physical. The Mavericks found that he needed surgery in his right knee. Dallas has said that they’ll consider signing Lewis once he recovers from the injury, but nothing is guaranteed. Mark Cuban has remained in touch with Lewis, who is working out in Dallas as he tries to get completely healthy and in game shape. Last postseason, Lewis showed that he can still play at a high level. His role with the Miami HEAT increased during the playoffs and he was moved into the starting lineup for eight games. He had a five-game stretch in the Eastern Conference Finals and NBA Finals in which he averaged 13.8 points, hitting 18 three-pointers at a 52.9 percent clip. Lewis’ 1,787 three-point shots ranks eighth in NBA history.
Carlos Delfino, 32 years old, 8-year veteran – Delfino didn’t play in a single game last season with the Milwaukee Bucks after undergoing multiple surgeries on his foot. Over the offseason, he was traded to the L.A. Clippers and subsequently waived. He had surgery to remove a screw from his foot last month and there has been no timetable for his return to action. If he continues to have issues with his surgically-repaired foot, it’s possible that he won’t play for a second straight season. However, if he is healthy, expect some team to take a chance on him since he’s a talented reserve scorer who can spread the floor. He last averaged 10.6 points for the Houston Rockets in the 2012-13 season.
Ivan Johnson, 30 years old, 2-year veteran – The Dallas Mavericks waived Johnson prior to the start of the season, and now he’s looking for a new home. The veteran big man played in the Las Vegas Summer League to showcase his game to NBA executives after spending last year in China. Prior to that, he was on the Atlanta Hawks for two years, averaging 6.5 points and 3.9 rebounds. Johnson is the epitome of a tough enforcer, which is attractive to some teams. Teams are constantly auditioning big men, so Johnson may get a chance to show what we can do at some point this season. As he so eloquently told Basketball Insiders during summer league, “I’ll f*** anybody that’s in front of me [to get back into the league].” Never change, Ivan.
Dahntay Jones, 33 years old, 10-year veteran – Jones was one of the last cuts by the Utah Jazz prior to the start of this season, and it’s possible that he could join another team at some point. Jones appeared in every Jazz preseason game, but Utah decided to keep some of the younger guards who had been guaranteed money. Not only can Jones provide solid perimeter defense and toughness to a team, he’s a veteran leader. Jones tried to help Utah’s young core as much as possible on and off the court during training camp and the preseason, and he could be a valuable piece for a team in need of a strong locker room presence.
Eric Maynor, 27 years old, 5-year veteran – It wasn’t long ago that Maynor was considered one of the better backup point guards in the NBA. He was very good during his first three years with the Oklahoma City Thunder, running the offense and rarely turning the ball over. Then, Maynor tore his ACL in January of 2012 and he hasn’t been the same since. The Thunder traded him the following year and he has since had stints with the Portland Trail Blazers, Philadelphia 76ers and Washington Wizards. His production dipped significantly, particularly during his season with the Wizards. Washington really hoped he could be the team’s backup floor general behind John Wall, but he struggled to the point that they had to trade for Andre Miller and move on from Maynor. He briefly suited up for the Sixers, but was waived after eight games. Because he has had some success in the league, it’s possible that he could get another look to salvage his career.
Travis Outlaw, 30 years old, 11-year veteran – Outlaw didn’t make the New York Knicks, losing his roster spot to undrafted rookie Travis Wear. New York traded Outlaw to the Philadelphia 76ers (to free up space for Wear) and then Philly waived him. Outlaw will receive the $3,000,000 he was guaranteed this season, so he’ll be paid whether he’s in the league or not. The last few years have been somewhat rough for Outlaw, as he has struggled (and parted ways with) the Brooklyn Nets, Sacramento Kings and Knicks. However, he has stuck around the league for 11 years as a role player and always seems to end up on a roster, so don’t be surprised if he gets another shot this season.
Ronnie Brewer, 29 years old, 8-year veteran – It wasn’t long ago that Brewer was a starter for the Chicago Bulls, playing a key role for them in the 2011-12 season. But since leaving Chicago, Brewer hasn’t been very productive. His numbers decreased during his stints with the New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets, playing very few minutes. He rejoined the Bulls toward the end of last season, but was let go in July. It’s possible that Brewer could get signed at some point this season, since he’s a solid perimeter defender and veteran presence. He knows his role and has plenty of playoff experience as well. He has averaged 7.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.2 steals over the course of his eight-year career.
Peyton Siva, 24 years old, 1-year veteran – The Detroit Pistons decided to waive Siva after his rookie season. He joined the Orlando Magic for training camp and the preseason, but didn’t appear in any games. When he signed with the Magic, it was with an understanding that he would be waived and then join the Magic’s D-League affiliate, the Erie BayHawks. The arrangement made sense for both parties, as Siva got some guaranteed money to supplement his D-League salary and the Magic ensured that they’d have him in Erie. That’s where Siva finds himself today, but any NBA team can call him up and sign him this season. It was somewhat surprising that Siva didn’t land on NBA roster over the summer since he’s still just 24 years old and played pretty well in the Orlando Summer League, averaging 10 points, five assists and a steal. He’s certainly someone to keep an eye on in the D-League, as he may be called up at some point this season.
Xavier Silas, 26 years old, 1-year veteran – Silas spent the last two training camps with the Washington Wizards and was the last cut each time. This preseason, he was productive, but the Wizards opted to keep 12-year veteran Rasual Butler over him. Silas has had stints in France, Israel, Argentina and the D-League, and had a stint with the Philadelphia 76ers during the 2011-12 season. If Silas does make an NBA roster, he will be suspended for one game since he left the bench during a preseason confrontation that took place between Paul Pierce and Joakim Noah.
Tyrus Thomas, 28 years old, 7-year veteran – Thomas hasn’t played in the NBA since being amnestied by Charlotte, but he recently told Basketball Insiders that he’s trying to make a comeback. He is still getting into game shape after recently undergoing surgery to remove a cyst from his back, but he’s working out twice a day in San Antonio and looking good. He’s determined to show that he has matured and change how he’s perceived, because he’s the first one to say that he made some mistakes and took things for granted while he was in the NBA. Thomas is still very young compared to many of the players on this list, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get another chance in the NBA.
Honorable Mention: Josh Howard, Kenyon Martin, Hasheem Thabeet, John Lucas III, Greg Oden, Elliot Williams, Richard Hamilton, Mickael Pietrus, Earl Barron, Dwight Buycks, Marquis Teague, Lamar Odom, Stephen Jackson, Marcus Camby, Jamaal Tinsley, Mike James, Daniel Gibson, Seth Curry, Doron Lamb, Damien Wilkins, Keith Bogans, Terrence Williams, Jason Kapono, Donte Greene, Adonis Thomas, Arnett Moultrie, Robert Covington, Jeff Adrien, Erik Murphy, Josh Powell, Brian Cook, Bernard James, Hassan Whiteside, Kwame Brown, Jason Collins, Dexter Pittman, Solomon Jones, Andris Biedrins, Chris Johnson, Aaron Craft, Khem Birch, Renaldo Balkman, Malcolm Lee, Andrew Bynum
Next week, we’ll take a look at some players who are currently abroad and who may be signed by an NBA team after they complete their overseas commitment.
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.
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.
2018 NBA All-Star Sunday Recap
Michael Petrower recaps the All-Star Game from Sunday in Los Angeles.
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.
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.
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.
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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?
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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.
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.
It’s only a matter of time before we see it actually see it happen.