The way current NBA scheduling is undertaken leaves much to be desired.
82 games in a regular season, yet even as a dedicated fan, I maybe remember a few of them once the season has ended. Because let’s face it, the average regular season game does not matter. Moreover, the gravity of any single regular season game is completely subverted by the fact that there are 81 other games just like it. The quantity of games subtracts from their quality. There is simply little emphasis to play hard, championship basketball outside of or leading up to the playoffs. Just look at how many players sit out of games for “load management” reasons. Can you imagine paying to go see a game only to find out that your favorite player is sitting out in order to rest themselves for a more important game? Change is sorely needed.
So how do we emphasize the importance of regular season games whilst still having teams play a full 82 game season? Here’s my proposal: Schedule games the way the MLB schedules their games. Major league baseball teams play in 3-4 game series against each other before they move onto the next opponent. The NBA would benefit from incorporating series of a similar nature into their regular season scheduling as it can break up the monotony that is 82 games of seemingly randomly scheduled basketball matchups. I’m not suggesting that every game be a part of a series; I’m advocating on behalf of incorporating series into the regular season.
Picture this: It’s Tuesday night and you just had a rough day at the office. You sit down on your couch and just want a game to take your mind off going to work in the morning. Now which game do you think you would be more invested in: 1) Game 3 of a series tied 1-1 or 2) a normal regular season matchup? That was a rhetorical question; let me explain why the answer is option #1:
-1) Higher stakes = More entertaining games
The play-in tournament during last year’s NBA bubble is evidence that the addition of stakes boosts competition. The Suns, Blazers, and Grizzlies all played lights-out basketball vying for that 8th seed. The Suns even went undefeated in the bubble trying to get themselves into the playoff picture. A 3 game series effectively demonstrates who the better team is in that moment; the bragging rights is incentive enough to play harder. I think we should go a step further and add regular season tournaments. The teams are going to play each other anyways, so why not structure it in a more fun way? The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers of the tournament could receive a special stat, let’s call it “tournament wins”, that can be added to their record and would be equal to 3 regular season wins. The NBA bubble showed us that teams will compete when incentivized, so let’s incentivize them.
-2) Teams can have practice adjusting to opposing teams
Teams can adjust in real time and you can have good, real time feedback to coach from. Why wait until the playoffs to figure out how to quickly adapt to teams? Just look at the Bucks. They trounced every team in the regular season the past two years, but come playoff time they were unable to keep pace with the adjustments other teams made against them, their playoff runs ultimately ending in disappointing fashion. Had they had a regular season to practice making adjustments who knows that could have happened?
-3) It gives smaller teams a chance to gain exposure in larger media markets
Think of how good it would be for a teams brand to win a 3 game series against the Los Angeles Lakers. Smaller market teams that beat bigger name teams – the Lakers, Clippers, Celtics, Nets – are not always afforded the due respect they deserve for beating these teams. Often times, sports media will roll out some segment about how the favorited team lost the game and not how the other team won the game. Just imagine the favorable media coverage, say, the Pacers would get if they beat the Lakers in a best of 3 series. A series style format will help NBA fans know which teams are worth hitching their bandwagons to, thus increasing a teams market share and the overall size of the market. If every team is seen as a contender, then there will be more teams to buy merchandise, tv contracts, etc. from, because nobody likes to hitch their money to a losing team. A series style format affords these smaller teams a pathway towards being household names.
-4) Big name matchups become that much more exciting (and profitable)
Can you imagine how much coverage a 3 game series between the Nets and Lakers would get in this current moment? This bullet point largely speaks for itself.
So what do you think? Am I an idiot who knows nothing about logistics, business, or scheduling? Or should Adam Silver go ahead and give me a job?
Thanks for reading!