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WEEKLY WHINE

ARRRGH!ing with the NBA

As you know, the NBA once again exists.

A new collective bargaining agreement has enabled North America’s annual basketball championship to begin again. This year the season will be shorter, with only 66 games versus the normal 82. But the competition is no less exciting. See, for instance, Daequan Cook’s sequence of three point baskets on New Year’s Eve.

However, you must not forget that the NBA would be more exciting still had it implemented the GoobNet Agency for Reintroducing Relegation to Recreational Game Hierarchies’ proposal for establishing promotion and relegation. This scheme would have readjusted the teams after the 2009-10 season. The 2010-1 season would have been played in a new format, with the top sixteen teams playing one another and the bottom fourteen teams playing one another.

If our scheme had gone into effect, the teams that did not make the 2010 playoffs – Detroit, Golden State, Houston, Indiana, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Sacramento, Toronto, and Washington – would have been relegated to the NBA Second League, and the remaining teams would have made up the NBA First League.

Here is how the NBA First and Second Leagues would have looked last season.

2010-1 NBA FIRST LEAGUE
NORTH
Boston
Chicago
Cleveland
Milwaukee
SOUTH
Dallas
Denver
Oklahoma City
San Antonio
EAST
Atlanta
Charlotte
Miami
Orlando
WEST
LA Lakers
Phoenix
Portland
Utah
2010-1 NBA SECOND LEAGUE
EAST
Detroit
Indiana
New Jersey
New York
Philadelphia
Toronto
Washington
WEST
Golden State
Houston
LA Clippers
Memphis
Minnesota
New Orleans
Sacramento

In the real 2010-1 season, the best teams were Chicago, San Antonio, Miami, Los Angeles Lakers, and Dallas. These teams, along with Boston, Oklahoma City, and Orlando, would have been the eight playoff teams in the NBA First League. Chicago, as the first overall division winner, would have played Orlando in the first round. The other serieses would have been San Antonio-Oklahoma City, Miami-Boston, and LA Lakers-Dallas. As it happens, the Miami-Boston and LA Lakers-Dallas serieses actually happened in the real 2011 playoffs, with Miami defeating Boston in five games and Dallas sweeping the LA Lakers in four games. San Antonio were shockingly eliminated in the first round by Memphis; if we assume that San Antonio would have lost to Oklahoma City and that Chicago would have defeated Orlando, we would have semifinal serieses of Chicago-Dallas and Miami-Oklahoma City. Thus, the real Finals series of Miami-Dallas seems likely to have happened in the NBA First League anyway.

The last placed teams in each First League division would have been Cleveland, Denver, Charlotte, and Utah. In the Second League, New York and New Orleans would have won the East and West divisions respectively, and the two next best teams would have been Memphis and Houston. Thus, the promotion serieses would have been New Orleans-Cleveland, New York-Charlotte, Memphis-Utah, and Houston-Denver. Based on the real 2010-1 results, Denver would have retained their NBA First League status, and Cleveland, Charlotte, and Utah would all have been relegated.

Therefore, this season’s NBA would look like this.

2011-2 NBA FIRST LEAGUE
NORTH
Boston
Chicago
New York
Milwaukee
SOUTH
Dallas
New Orleans
Oklahoma City
San Antonio
EAST
Atlanta
Memphis
Miami
Orlando
WEST
Denver
LA Lakers
Phoenix
Portland
2011-2 NBA SECOND LEAGUE
EAST
Charlotte
Cleveland
Detroit
New Jersey
Philadelphia
Toronto
Washington
WEST
Golden State
Houston
Indiana
LA Clippers
Minnesota
Sacramento
Utah

Cleveland and Charlotte would have been placed in the NBA Second League East division, and Utah in the West division. Indiana would have moved from the East to the West to accommodate these changes. In the NBA First League, New York would have been placed in the North division, New Orleans in the South, and Memphis in the East. Denver would have moved from the South to the West.

The current NBA season is made up of 66 games, shortened from 82 by the lockout. Teams play four games against six of their conference opponents and three against the other eight, along with two games against three of the other conference’s teams and one against each of the other twelve.

Meanwhile, if the NBA had taken our approach, the schedule would be a little different. In the NBA First League, a team would play ten games against each divisional opponent [30 in all] and three against everyone else [36]. In the NBA Second League, teams would play their divisional opponents eight times each [48 in all]. There would also be three games against four of the teams in the other division and two games against the other three.

But wait! There is some concern out there. Some people feel that 66 games is too many to fit into four months. After all, with the real schedule for this season, every team has at least one sequence of three games in three straight days. What if this season lasted only 60 games?

It would be easy to shave six games off the schedule in each league. In the NBA Second League, teams would play seven games against each divisional opponent instead of eight. In the NBA First League, there are two possible approaches. Teams could play each divisional opponent eight times instead of ten. Or, to balance the schedule in favour of divisional rivalries, each team could play its divisional opponents twelve times and everyone else twice.

So as you can see, there are numerous advantages to the NBA if it introduced promotion and relegation. In addition to the obvious benefit that it gives nearly every team something to play for, it also gives the league additional flexibility when it is time to write schedules, particularly when the season needs to be shortened. And since the new agreement has an opt out period six years from now, we should all be planning for a short, or even nonexistent, 2017-8 season.

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