Okay, so how does this affect the playoffs? It breaks the binary structure. There is no way to set up a 16 team field with three conferences without simply seeding the teams with the best records into a bracket with the #1 seed versus #16, #8 versus #9, #4 versus #13, and #5 versus #12 on one side, and #2 v. #15, #3 v. #14, and so forth on the other side.
Admittedly this may require some creative scheduling in the postseason if you get a series between say, Portland and Miami, but it saves everyone from what will be an almost pointless Eastern Conference first round. Let’s see what Fitz system would produce as of Wednesday night.
For one it puts the Warriors in the thick of the playoff picture—which is where a team winning 60% of its games belongs–and it excludes Atlanta, currently, 36-42, the team most likely to win the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. For another it creates a great race between two of the better coached emerging squads in Toronto and Portland for the hypothetical final playoff spot. The reward for one of those two teams is a first round matchup with Boston, but that hypothetical series will be far more interesting than the Atlanta massacre that will happen at the hands of the Celtics.
The Boston side of this hypothetical bracket would include a Finals rematch between San Antonio and Cleveland and a Los Angeles versus Golden State first round battle. On the other side of this frame, savy, veteran Detroit faces the young athletic Philadelphia, New Orleans gets to play a Washington team that nearly matched its win total from last season despite having their three stars healthy and on the floor together for only nine games.
The other first round barnburners would be Phoenix-Dallas, Houston-Denver, and Utah-Orlando. While the last of these might require some creative scheduling (which happens anyway to facilitate maximum wall-to-wall TV coverage) it would create a far more compelling playoff match-up and a much more interesting regular season.
But wait a second, are you thinking but of course, some guy with the Warriors wants to create a system that does better by his team than the current set up. Consider that Fitzgerald wrote his piece last June. It wasn’t a provocation; it was prescient.
Martin Johnson is a regular contributor to The Root.