Three Changes the NBA Should Implement
From the addition of teams and usurping of different professional leagues to the changes in the All-Star Game voting over the last few years, the NBA has had many monumental changes over its 64-year history. Every slight change has helped form what the NBA has become today: an exciting, global league that seems to grow in popularity every day.
The NBA, though, should not stop changing and improving. With every change comes a different and more intriguing style of play, a new way to view players and break down their efficiency, and bettering the way the league functions as a whole.
These are my three suggested changes to the NBA.
1. Change All-NBA/All-Star teams to positionless
Picture this: a player was not selected to be an NBA All-Star in a particular season, as he is not popular enough with the fans and media to be part of the starting five, and coaches do not think he is among the other 7-10 most talented players in his conference. Seems pretty plausible, right? That is what happens to the majority of the NBA in a given season. However, what if at the end of the season, that player is voted to the First Team All-NBA? We have seen many non-All-Stars make All-NBA Third Team in the past ten years (DeAndre Jordan, Al Jefferson, Goran Dragic) due to second-half surges.
But to go from not making the All-Star Team to All-NBA First Team? That wouldn’t make sense, right? How could a player not even voted as one of the top 12-15 players in the conference be voted as one of the starting five players on the team of the best players in the entire NBA?
Well, this happened to DeAndre Jordan in the 2016 season. Even though there were four centers in the ASG (DeMarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond, Pau Gasol, Al Horford), Jordan was given the spot as the center on First Team All-NBA. This clearly does not make sense. If none of the All-Star centers were worthy of being on the All-NBA First Team, why does there need to be positions? The All-NBA teams should consist of the top five players in the league, regardless of position. For reference, take a look at the stats below. The first stat line is DeAndre Jordan’s, and the second one (Player B) is a player, who due to his position, was edged out of the All-NBA First Team by two other players.
D. Jordan: 81 G, 12.7 PPG, 13.8 RPG, 1.2 APG, .7 SPG, 2.3 BPG, 70.3% FG, 0% 3PT, 43% FT
Player B: 72 G, 28.2 PPG, 8.2 RPG, 5 APG, 1 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 50.5% FG, 38.7% 3PT, 89.8% FT
For those who did not figure it out, Player B is Kevin Durant (during his last year with the OKC Thunder). How is it possible that in 2016 DeAndre Jordan made the First Team, and Kevin Durant (due to LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard being voted as the two forwards) only made the All-NBA Second Team? Durant clearly had the better season but was relegated to the second team due to his position.
As we can see, this system does not make much logical sense, as positions nowadays are much less concrete, with guards stepping into forward roles, forwards playing as centers, and point forwards and point centers ruling the NBA.
2. Change seeding to 1-16, regardless of conference
In 2014, the Phoenix Suns were the 9th seed in the Western Conference with a record of 48-34. However, if they were in the Eastern Conference, they would have placed fifth. Because they were playing in the West, they were on the outskirts of the playoffs, as opposed to a solid seed in the East. In that same year, the Atlanta Hawks sported a record of 38-44, making the playoffs as the eighth seed in that much weaker East. How is this possible? Simply put, the NBA’s playoff seeding based on the eight best per conference. Therefore, if one conference is stronger, certain teams that may be quality teams in the stronger conference may not make the playoffs, while they might in the weaker conference.
In that 2014 season, the Suns were the 13th best team in basketball in the regular season but did not make the playoffs. Those Hawks were ranked as the 18th best team in the NBA, yet did make the playoffs. Clearly, there is something wrong with this system, and it needs to be changed.
My idea is to have the playoffs seeded 1-16, regardless of the conference. The NBA is known for having the best competition in the world, but how can we say this is true if the best 16 teams don’t always make the playoffs? Simple: we have the best 16 teams make the playoffs. It could be eight teams from each conference, or it could be 12 from one and 4 from the other. This way, we guarantee that the top 16 teams in the NBA are the ones competing for the championship. In this 2014 example, there would be nine teams from the West making the playoffs, and seven teams from the East. Teams will not be discouraged, as they now know that they only have to be a top 16 team in the NBA, and not the top eight in their conference.
We would also see incredibly entertaining matchups in earlier rounds. In 2018, the Cleveland Cavaliers (led by LeBron James) were the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference with a 50-32 record, yet made the NBA Finals to face the Warriors. If all teams were seeded 1-16, the Cavs would have been the sixth seed, and the Warriors would have been the third seed. That means that if teams 1-6 all won their first-round matchups (which would be incredibly likely, as they would face seeds 11-16), then the Warrior and the Cavaliers would have had to play each other in the second round. This will have a trickle-down effect, as teams will be forced to take their regular-season matchups a lot more seriously, or they have to face tougher competition come playoff time. If this was the situation back in 2018, I have a feeling that the Cavaliers would have won at least 55 games since they know their path to the Finals would be a lot tougher, and they would have taken the regular season much more seriously.
3. Make All-NBA Based on Most DPoY/MVP Votes
In 2013, Marc Gasol won the Defensive Player of the Year Award, yet somehow did not make the All-NBA Defensive First Team. What this means is that while Gasol was picked by coaches as the best defender in the league, he was still not voted as the best defensive player at his position, let alone the other four positions on the Defensive First Team. Gasol is not the only casualty of this unique situation, though. In fact, this has happened to three other players: Tyson Chandler in 2012, Dikembe Mutombo in 1995, and Alvin Robertson in 1986. How does a player become Defensive Player of the Year, yet not be selected to the All-NBA Defensive First Team?
In a similar vein, in 1973, Dave Cowens was voted as the NBA’s MVP for that season, yet was somehow not voted to the All-NBA First Team. In other words, the most valuable player in the league was not voted as even the best at his position by voters. Just like DPoY, this strange phenomenon has happened multiple other times: Bill Russell was voted to the All-NBA second team during three of his five MVP years (1958, 1961, 1962).
If a player is the best defensive player or the most valuable player in the NBA, shouldn’t they by default be on the All-NBA First Team or Defensive First Team?
This is why I believe that the All-NBA teams should be based on the votes for MVP and DPoY. Let’s say that the MVP list this season is as follows: LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Damian Lillard. LeBron James would be MVP, and he, along with the other four players, would be All-NBA First Team. This would be a great match with the first change I discussed earlier, as this way not only would guarantee that the MVP and the DPoY would be on the First Team, but that the rest of the team would be decided by votes and not position.