NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Wednesday that the league is leaning toward eliminating guaranteed postseason berths for division winners.
Currently, division winners are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs and a top-four seed in their conference. Silver said a rule change, discussed at meetings with the NBA's competition committee and board of governors, would ensure only the top-eight teams in each conference make the playoffs.
Earlier this month, the league's Competition Committee recommended the six division winners no longer be awarded an automatic top-four seed in the playoffs.
Silver said that the NBA's basketball analytics people have calculated that there is less than a 5% chance that a division winner would not finish in the top eight in its conference.
“Where we are leaning right now is that we would not guarantee a spot for a division winner in part because it's so unlikely to happen, and No. 2 if it does happen it would be potentially confusing to fans. No. 3, you would be displacing a team that did have a top-eight record,” said Silver.
Last season, the Portland Trail Blazers were the fourth seed in the Western Conference by virtue of winning their division, but the Blazers would have been seeded sixth if ranked by win-loss record. The defending champion San Antonio Spurs were knocked out of the 2015 NBA playoffs in the first round by the Los Angeles Clippers, a matchup that would have been avoided if playing under the proposed rule change.
- Rohan Nadkarni