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What Else Should The NBA Change? Part 1

David Yapkowitz considers what long-term changes the NBA should consider making as the league moves forward.

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Updated 11 months ago on
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We’re coming up on two months since the 2019-20 NBA season was abruptly halted – and now, we’re still no closer to resuming the season as we were back then. Adam Silver hosted a conference call with players on Friday afternoon during which scenarios as to possibly restarting the season were reportedly discussed.

In any case, whether the season is able to continue or not, this has already affected several other NBA events such as the annual Draft Combine, the lottery and, possibly, the draft itself. Free agency and summer league will also most likely be affected.

In the call with players, Silver reportedly said that regardless of whether play resumes or not, the start of the 2020-21 season will be pushed back until December.

All of this raises a couple of very important questions, what other possible changes should the NBA make – and should those changes become more permanent?

This past week at Basketball Insiders, in our quest to provide you with basketball content during these uncertain times, we’ve looked back at the last several drafts and how those players have since panned out. We’re culminating the week with a look at what changes should the NBA implement moving forward.

Here is are a list of things the NBA should consider when planning future seasons.

A shortened season with a later start time

In the NBA’s inaugural season back in 1946, the league played a total of 60 games with 11 teams. Throughout their first few seasons, and up until the 1952-53 season, the regular season consisted of about 60 or so games. Following that season, 72 games became the norm, gradually increasing until the 1967-68 season when the league settled on the standard 82 game season that we know today.

There’s no question that football is America’s sport. From the NFL to college football to even high school, there’s no pastime that captures Americans more than football. Football season begins in the fall and with the NBA starting up right after in October, it overlaps with one of the country’s biggest draws.

The NBA should consider starting their regular season in December permanently. Right around Christmas would be a wonderful time to begin. Can you imagine families gathered around the TV on Christmas night as the defending champions receive their rings? Football season is over not too long after that as well.

Over the years, there have also been suggestions that the NBA consider shortening the season. If they did decide to start the season in December from now on, perhaps it would be a good idea to shorten the season a bit rather than try and squish 82 games in a condescend time frame.

Playoffs revert to best of five in the first-round

Growing up, for many,  the first round of the NBA playoffs was always a best-of-five series. Often, it added a little bit more intrigue and, while not the heightened anxiety of the NCAA single elimination style, it still paved the way for the possible upset of a higher-seeded team.

In a seven-game series, the better team is usually able to pull off the series victory. Better teams have better players, better coaching and better scouting. Over the course of seven games, they’ll eventually wear you down and beat you.

We’ve had some upsets back during the best of five first-round series. In this lifetime, the top two that come to mind are the New York Knicks’ first-round win over the Miami HEAT in the 1999 playoffs and the Denver Nuggets come-from-behind win over the Seattle Supersonics in the 1994 version. In today’s format, Allan Houston’s game-winner would’ve just given the Knicks a 3-2 lead and Miami might have still been able to win that series.

Aside from the possible intrigue though, and getting back to the main topic, reverting to a best-of-five instead of seven would shorten the playoffs and allow the NBA to shave off a few games from the 82 and go with a shorter season. If there aren’t as many possible playoff games, then a shortened season with a later start time could possibly work.

Limitations/reductions on courtside seats

One of the best experiences of an NBA game is being able to sit right alongside the court and have an up-close and personal view of all the action. Fans get to hear all the chatter and perhaps even get to interact with a player or two.

It’s a distinct possibility that in a post-COVID-19 world, some form of social distancing will remain. Some of it might become part of a new normal. That could carry over to professional sports in that fan/player interactions will be more limited and controlled. NBA courtside seating would appear to fall under that banner.

There have already been player complaints about being harassed verbally, even physically, by fans sitting courtside. With a new virus making its way through the population and seemingly passed on with close contact, it might give the NBA an excuse to push some of those seats back for the health and safety of the players.

These are all just musings, however, there is absolutely no inkling that the NBA is even remotely considering any of these possibilities. A post-COVID-19 world is most likely going to be a bit different than what we’re accustomed to – and the NBA probably won’t be sparred. But until we know for sure, it’s fun to speculate what the NBA could or would not consider changing.

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David Yapkowitz has been a staff writer for Basketball Insiders since 2017. Based in Los Angeles, he focuses on the Pacific Division as well as the NBA at large.

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