A top 16 team NBA playoff format would cause 40,000 more postseason travel miles

If the NBA restructures its playoff format to simply take the top 16 teams regardless of conference — like many have called for since the Western Conference became much stronger than the East — the NBA estimates that it would cause about 40,000 more miles of postseason travel. (Getty Images)

The NBA’s Eastern and Western Conferences became even more unbalanced this week after LeBron James agreed to a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers.

With an even larger number of the league’s top teams now in the West, calls to restructure how the NBA sets up it’s playoffs resurfaced this week.

Currently, the NBA takes the top eight teams from each conference into the postseason, and teams won’t play an opponent from the opposing conference until the Finals.

However the call to restructure the playoffs to simply take the top 16 teams in the league grew again, as many feel that would be a more fair way to ensure that the top-two teams in the NBA — regardless of conference — reach the Finals, similar as to how the WNBA playoffs are set up. This would ensure that the top two teams in the league aren’t stuck playing until the championship series, like how many felt about the Houston Rockets and the Golden State Warriors facing off in the Western Conference Finals this year.

However if the league ditches its current format and just take the top 16 teams, the NBA estimates that it would add 40,000 more miles of travel in the postseason.

”I think, as I’ve said in the past, the obstacle is travel, and it’s not tradition in my mind, at least,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said at the All-Star break, according to the Associated Press. ”It’s that as we’ve added an extra week to the regular season, as we’ve tried to reduce the number of back-to-backs, that we are concerned about teams crisscrossing the country in the first round, for example. We are just concerned about the overall travel that we would have in the top 16 teams.”

According to the Associated Press, the league currently averages about 90,000 miles of travel in the postseason. Were it to adapt the new format, it would increase to nearly 130,000 miles of travel. The league also estimates that it would have an average of two or more series per postseason pitting an East and West team against each other, and has about a 90 percent chance of at least one series.

The NBA also said that if it adapted the new format, it would have to adjust regular season schedules, too. They would attempt to balance it out, so that teams are playing the same amount of games against teams from both conferences, which would create 150,000 more miles of travel throughout the regular season.

However in a league as unbalanced as the NBA — with the majority of powerhouse teams and star players in the West — its definitely an issue that Silver wants to keep looking at.

”It’s still my hope that we’re going to figure out ways,” Silver said. ”Maybe ultimately you have to add even more days to the season to spread it out a little bit more to deal with the travel. Maybe air travel will get better. All things we’ll keep looking at.”

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