When I came up with the questions for this edition of DBB-on-3, I admit I was biased in my opinion that the 2017 edition of the NBA Playoffs have been, for the most part, a snoozer. There have been a few good games, most notably the most recent Eastern Conference Finals games, but so many of the games in the other series were lopsided victories where the outcomes were nearly never in doubt.
I heard an explanation for the poor quality of the playoffs from Eddie Johnson on SiriusXM NBA Radio’s NBA Today: could you realistically see any of the teams outside of Cleveland and Golden State (and maybe San Antonio) actually winning the NBA Championship? Maybe it’s nostalgia bias, but back in the Bad Boys days, each round was an all-out dogfight. This year, eh, not so much.
But not everyone at DBB agrees - which makes for a more interesting debate. As usual, we leave the real answers up to you all in the comments.
1. To what do you attribute the poor quality of the first 3 rounds of the NBA Playoffs?
Ben Gulker: I wouldn't read too much into it. It seems like a fluke to me.
Lazarus Jackson: The first three rounds of the NBA playoffs were poor quality? I hadn't noticed. I was too busy watching Giannis ascend, Kelly Olynyk play the game of his life in a Game 7, Kawhi score the last 16 points against Memphis (TAKE THAT FOR DATA), Steph Curry create my new favorite meme (Rudy Gobert Dance Party), Paul George putting the Pacers through the NBA's version of Sophie's choice, the return of ISO JOE, Russell Westbrook 50-point-playoff-triple-doubles, the Second Annual James Harden Elimination Game Disappearing Act, and last but certainly not least, a rested LeBron James compress the life out of a Toronto team allegedly designed to slow him.
"Predictable" is not the same as "Low Quality." You can predict the end of most movies after the first 20 minutes - doesn't dull your enjoyment of it any.
Mike Snyder: Much ado about nothing. Best team wins – what a concept.
Justin Lambregtse: LeBron James and the video game roster of the Golden State Warriors.
Kenneth Wallace: The big jump in the salary cap allowed a few teams to load up, so we don't have as much parity in the NBA as we have had in the past. I expect there have been past postseasons when the two favorites practically waltzed to the Finals, too. Injuries to some key stars - Lowry, Leonard, Thomas - have had an effect as well.
Prava88 (Ryan Pravato): Super teams and near super teams. Also, 16 teams are an awful lot to be in the playoffs and probably should be cut, but that's been thrown around for years and won't happen any time soon.
Steve Hinson: I don't really think the quality has been poor. By my count, the winning percentage for series winners in the playoffs to this point has been 76 percent. That'll presumably drop with a competitive NBA Finals, putting it around last year's percentage of 70 percent. Two years ago, it was 74 percent. By comparison, the MLB's postseason last year was 74 percent. So I think it's been pretty normal.
Jamie Delaney: The question is more about what attributes determine the "quality" of a playoff round. For two fan bases, these playoffs have been super high quality. When the Pistons won in 2004, those Finals were hardly competitive and the highest "quality" of team basketball. If I whoop every DBB writer in Mario Kart and lap em all 3 times, that's a “quality” win. I think the better question is this: To what do you attribute the poor competitiveness of the first three rounds? The answer is quite simple really: LeBron is the basketball version of Predator and Golden State is an All-Star team that got lucky with key contracts and a cap spike.
Let's not overthink this.
David Fernandez: While there's been some firm butt-kickings delivered by the two best teams (Cleveland and GSW), some of the other match-ups have been entertaining for the extreme basketball fan. BOS-WAS was excellent, SA-HOU was entertaining, as was a few of the first round matchups. LeBron's gonna LeBron, and the Dubs are gonna Dub, hopefully one of the second-tier teams improves dramatically enough to contend next season.
Jacob Kuyvenhoven: The league is fairly top-heavy and Kawhi Leonard got hurt. I wouldn't say it's been a great playoffs overall, but the best is yet to come. Provided the Finals are awesome, I don't think many will care about the first three rounds anyway. If the Warriors just wax Cleveland, then there's a legitimate gripe. But i'd rather have two amazing teams duking it out than eight Clippers or Jazz-level teams that all have about an equal chance of winning.
2. Is this year an anomaly or a sign of a trend that needs to be addressed?
Ben Gulker: Anomaly...Unless it happens again next season. But what could the NBA do? So many injuries to key players are as much to blame as anything.
Lazarus Jackson: What's anomalous about the two best teams in the NBA being poised to meet in the Finals? That makes sense, doesn't it? If you want to argue that the way these two teams were assembled are anomalous, I won't fight you, but I don't think there's a "trend" to "address.”
Mike Snyder: It’s how basketball works: a game of runs and luck. If someone created technology to eliminate all injuries, then we’d be onto something. However, if that someone created such technology and thought of the NBA playoffs first, that too, is a problem.
Justin Lambregtse: I don't think every year will be quite as non-competitive as this year, but the dominance of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors will be the new norm for at least the next couple years.
Kenneth Wallace: I really don't know how you can address non-competitiveness in the playoffs. We shouldn't expect the first round to be very competitive - especially the battles between the No. 1 and No. 8 seeds.
Prava88 (Ryan Pravato): I'd say anomaly. However, I'd like the first round to return to the five-game series format. That would make things more dicey and really test those higher seeds -- it should make for better basketball, at least initially, right?
Steve Hinson: I wouldn't mind seeing fewer teams make the playoffs. As it currently is, more than half of the teams in the league make it. Add to that seven-game series all the way through, I think that makes it too long and the quality of teams too diluted. Not to mention, it can take longer than two months to get through the entire playoffs.
Jamie Delaney: I think moving the first round from a best-of-five to a best-of-seven was a mistake. Best-of-five heightens the competitive meaning of each game and adds a sense of urgency that seems to have been lost in these seven-game sagas.
David Fernandez: I think the new CBA tried to address the "superteam" issue by allowing teams who drafted a star player the option of signing them to the Super-Max (editor’s note: The Designated Veteran Player Extension - up to 35 percent of the cap), should that player qualify. We may not see an immediate impact in terms of next year's playoffs, but it would possibly stop the next Kevin Durant-to-GSW situation from happening.
Jacob Kuyvenhoven: I don't think GSW vs. CLE is an anomaly at all; it would be the same series for the third season in a row and Cleveland has never faced a huge challenge coming out of the East, really. The Warriors had an incredible run of drafting and got Steph Curry for cheap because of his ankles, so that's an anomaly. But with the designated veteran extension in place it's really hard to see a true mega-star top-five guy moving teams in free agency, and that's all the league can really do without further inhibiting player freedom and punishing teams just for being good.
3. The idea of choosing the top 16 teams overall rather than the top 8 from each conference has been bandied about. Do agree with that or have any other ideas for bringing more competitiveness back to the playoffs?
Ben Gulker: Conferences are a relic from a bygone era, when travel was much more difficult. I'd get rid of them altogether and go with the top 16.
Lazarus Jackson: The playoffs were very competitive, as long as you didn't watch the top two teams exclusively. I focused on that until it was unavoidable (the Conference Finals) and now I'm rooting for the Cavs-Warriors rubber match I've wanted since Durant's Player's Tribune piece.
Mike Snyder: Divisions and conferences are all lame. I trust Adam Silver will (eventually) do the right thing and rid the league of both.
Justin Lambregtse: I don't think picking the top 16 teams regardless of conference will really do anything. After the top four teams in the league, no team really has a legitimate chance at winning a championship. The only thing I can really think of is giving every team in the lottery the same odds - that way a team that needs one more "star" to get over the hump has a shot at getting one with a top pick in the draft.
Kenneth Wallace: I'm opposed to the top 16 idea, because I like the East-versus-West matchup in the Finals. While we can quibble about it when a good team in one conference gets left out, it's unlikely an No. 8 seed would reach the Finals.
Prava88 (Ryan Pravato): I don't have a strong take on this one way or another. In recent years (and likely this year, too), it's fun looking forward to the matchup of East Goliath vs. West Goliath. Scraping the conferences wouldn't change things much for the playoffs but would perhaps change things in the regular season. For example: Pistons v. Warriors three times instead of just the usual two. Who doesn't want the chance at Steph and Co. playing in Detroit two times in one season?
Steve Hinson: The NFL is a terrible league, but I wouldn't mind borrowing their playoff bracket. Do a five-game wildcard series between seeds three-through-six while the top two seeds get a bye, then seven-game series for the three final rounds. That'd make the regular season more worthwhile for top teams, and speed up the early part of the playoffs. This year, it would have kept Indiana, Chicago, Memphis, and Portland out of the playoffs, none of whom really belonged there in the first place. And it would have kept the more competitive/entertaining early round series of Utah versus Los Angeles and Toronto versus Milwaukee intact. The only downside is that making the playoffs more difficult to get into could encourage more tanking, but that's a different problem.
Jamie Delaney: I'm only in for a top eight if we start having the bottom two teams relegated to the G-League a la the English Premier League. Top two G-League markets would become a pseudo-NBA market. The relegated teams would lose their spot in the lottery, we'd bump the other 12 teams odds to compensate, then give the 2 G-league promoted squads the smallest amount of ping pong balls. This idea is not realistic for another 10-20 years, but think of the Kings and Nets competing to keep their NBA spot! Think of the Grand Rapids Drive in the NBA lottery! It would be wild.
David Fernandez: I wouldn't mind seeing the top 16 teams make it - the best teams deserve to dance - but I don't think that'll automatically make for a more competitive playoffs in totality. I'm also fine with the playoffs as currently constructed. Yes, by June it feels like we've watched two years of playoff basketball, but I don't mind that, because what follows is baseball as the primary major sport for a few months.
Jacob Kuyvenhoven: I don't think swapping Portland for Miami really makes the playoffs all that more competitive, but that doesn't make going with the top 16 is a bad idea. I love the idea of having the top seeds pick their opponents just for the beef it would add to the first round, but probably the only real way to actually make the first round more competitive is just let fewer teams in.
Lots of good quality discussion right up in there, right?!?
What do you all think? There are any number of highly debatable topics...choose one or more and...