NBA rumors: League considering World Cup-style group stage to replace 1st round of playoffs
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Rumor: NBA considering World Cup-style group stage to replace 1st round of playoffs

Adam Silver, NBA

The NBA is strongly considering a potential World-Cup style group stage elimination to replace the first round of the playoffs, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been known to be a fan of how international soccer conducts its product, which has reflected in the investment in jersey branding and other additions to the game. Yet this would be by far the most ambitious thing to borrow through his stint as chief of the league.

The proposed format would have all 16 teams that are qualified to make the playoffs along with the next four best records: Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, and San Antonio Spurs.

As O’Connor explained, the 20 participating teams could be allocated into five tiers in descending order by their win-loss record:

  • Tier 1: Bucks, Lakers, Raptors, Clippers
  • Tier 2: Celtics, Nuggets, Jazz, Heat
  • Tier 3: Thunder, Rockets, Pacers, Sixers
  • Tier 4: Mavericks, Grizzlies, Nets, Magic
  • Tier 5: Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs

The NBA would do its best to fairly balance these groups, like limiting each group to only three Western Conference teams. The drawings for the group stage could be televised, much like the UEFA Champions League does for its European soccer league every year.

Using a random number generator (RNG), groups could look like this:

Image courtesy of The Ringer

Teams would play two games against each opponent in its own group and those with the two best records from each group would qualify for the second round of the playoffs. Eight teams in total would advance, and those would go on to play seven-game series to determine the eventual NBA champion.

While this would drastically change how the NBA has run its postseason since its inception, it would grant two-thirds of the league with television revenue and make each of these games mean something, even for top-tier teams.