By Eric Umphrey
The Times 

NBA playoffs are worth your time this year

 


Professional sports in America used to be referred to as the four seasons (baseball, basketball, football, and hockey), with the basketball season suffering the worst parity. Including the 1979 season when the Seattle Supersonics won the NBA title, only thirteen teams have been crowned champions in the last forty years. The NFL and NHL have had eighteen different teams that have won the championship during that span, and MLB has had twenty-three different World Series winners in that same period.

The reason is simple. The NBA has the fewest number of players taking up the lion’s share of the playing time. This has led to dynasties formed from two or three of the top players in the league playing on the same team. The '80s belonged to the Los Angeles Lakers (Magic and Kareem) and Boston Celtics (Bird, Parrish, McHale). Then in the '90s, it was the Chicago Bulls (Jordan and Pippen). In the 2000s, it was the Los Angeles Lakers (Shaq and Kobe) and San Antonio Spurs (Robertson and Duncan), and in the 2010’s was the Miami Heat (Wade and LeBron) and the Golden State Warriors (Curry, Green, Thompson, and Durant). The consolidation of talent had become so bad that the NBA changed the yearly draft to a lottery format in 1986 in an effort to help teams rebuild. The NBA has continued to tweak that system, although it still hasn’t been able to keep dynasty teams from forming.


If the NBA playoffs have been so predictable, why is the season worth watching this year? So many unforeseen things can happen this year. I doubt all of the players stayed in game shape anticipating the season to be canceled, so that could be a factor. A few players have already opted out of the rest of the season, citing personal or family health concerns. If a player tests positive for COVID-19, he will not be able to rejoin his team for at least fourteen days. If a player leaves the Orlando campus, he will be subject to a ten-day quarantine and testing. Losing a single starting player from a basketball team has a much more significant impact than it would in any other sport. Losing a star player can turn a favorite into an uncompetitive team overnight.

With that in mind, the NBA season is set to resume on July 30th. At that time, eight regular-season games will determine playoff seeding. The top eight teams in each conference will advance to the playoffs. However, if the 9th seed finishes within four games of the 8th seed, in either conference, then play-in games between the 8th and 9th seed would start on August 15-16. Otherwise, the first round of the playoffs will begin on August 17th. How well this experiment works may affect the other sports trying to restart, including hockey and baseball. Stay tuned.


 

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