Discover more from Good Morning It's Basketball
There should be 2 NBA seasons every year
Time is a construct. We can manipulate it to increase the stakes of the regular season and get more playoff games.
Good morning. Let’s basketball.
The game show Survivor has been on American television for 23 years. The competition will soon begin its 45th season of action. The Bachelor has been on the air for 21 years, yet has completed 27 seasons. Top Chef first aired 17 years ago, yet has completed 20 seasons. At the peak of its popularity, America’s Next Top Model ran two seasons per year: one launching in the fall, one in the spring.
Time is a construct. It can be manipulated to enhance results. Just ask Jeff Probst and Tyra Banks. Just ask this guy.
Open your mind to the possibility of 45 seasons of Survivor in 23 years. Open your mind to the potential of 21 days in a week. Open your mind to the idea of two NBA seasons in one year.
So much energy has been spent over the past decade on debating the proper length of the NBA season, on coming up with concepts (like the play-in and in-season tournament) to increase the stakes of regular season games, on litigating the presence of stars in games (like rules against resting during national TV games). The easiest solution to all of this is simply to reduce the margin of error in the regular season. Make everything seem more important by actually making it more important.
But this easy solution runs into an unmovable barrier: reducing the number of games hurts the bottom line in an enormous way. Cutting the number of games would reduce gate receipts, would possibly devalue existing media rights deals (some of which are already on shaky ground at the local level), would reduce salaries via a potential drop in league revenue. The league and players’ union have basically rejected the concept of shortening the season even a little, as evidenced by the fact that they instantly reverted back to 82 games after the second season impacted by the pandemic.
What if you could shorten the season without eliminating any games by creating two individual seasons where there is currently one?
Good Morning It's Basketball is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Let’s consider a sample calendar.
Season 77 of the National Basketball Association begins in early October. Teams play 41 games into early January: 15 games against teams from the other conference and home-and-homes with all but two in-conference foes. Then the Season 77 playoffs begin. But to shorten them up, the first round is best-of-3, the second round is best-of-5 and the conference finals and NBA Finals are best-of-7. Keep the play-in, but let top seeds pick their opponents. It’ll make upsets all the sweeter.
A best-of-3 first round takes a week to get through all the series. The second round can begin on Saturday of the second week of the playoffs. The conference finals can then begin about 10 days later, then the Finals can begin two weeks after that. We’re looking at about six weeks for the abbreviated playoffs.
You’re crowning the Season 77 champion in the latter part of February, a couple weeks after the Super Bowl and a few weeks before March Madness. A nice little window.
Then you have a break, maybe two weeks long. Throw an All-Star competition in there if you like. It’s a short turnaround for finalists, but other teams have a longer break here. Allow trades. In fact, turn opening day of Season 78 into the new trade deadline. But there are no free agents during this break — that happens only after even-numbered seasons.
Season 78 tips off in early March. Another regular season with 41 more games goes forward. Another set of playoffs begin in early June. The Season 78 champion is crowned in late July, before the NFL starts back up. Have your free agency, your draft, your offseason, your international competitions, your Summer Leagues. Start Season 79 in October 2024. Do it again.
To borrow from our 21-days-a-week hero Ed Mylett:
My NBA season is October to February. And I’m not crazy. You’re crazy for thinking it takes 12 months just like some dude in a cavernous municipal auditorium did 77 years ago.
My second season starts in March and goes until July. <snap> That’s season two. And the next season is October to February. What I have done now is I have changed and manipulated time. I now get two NBA seasons a year. Stack it up over a decade, I’m gonna kick your butt. Stack it up over a generation, you’re toast. Stack it up over a century, my entire league is different than it would have been otherwise.
But Zillz, what about …?
Tradition? In 1952, there were 10 teams total in the league, you only needed nine wins in the playoffs to get a championship and teams played just 66 regular season games. Things change.
Losing playoff games? Inevitably, most first round playoff series are duds, which leads folks to long for the days of best-of-3 or best-of-5 series. We’re taking advantage of that here because, in the end under this scheme the NBA is guaranteed a minimum of 92 postseason games per calendar year, as opposed to the current 66.
The proposal: each season has at least six play-in games, 16 first-round games, 12 second-round games, eight conference finals games and four Finals games: 46 postseason games, with two seasons: 92 games per calendar year.
In the new system teams would need 13 wins en route to a title as opposed to the current 16.
A lack of rest? The offseason is indeed shorter here, by about a month. But teams not in the NBA Finals will be getting a longer break in midseason. Teams who miss the playoffs have nearly a two-month break. Hey, the NBA could put together a little “in-season tournament” for those teams if it wants, right? Opportunity abounds! But yes, if a team makes the Finals every season, they will need to probably strategically rest some players during one of the regular seasons. But be careful! Games matter more because there are fewer of them.
Contracts? More thought needs to go into this, but my feeling is that you should still keep the bulk of free agency in the summer. So players sign for 2-season blocks by default, though minimum deals can be for solo seasons. (You might have veterans that take winter seasons off but play in spring seasons.) Concentrate trades during specific windows to create heightened drama and attention: at the end of July through early August tied to free agency and the NBA Draft (which gets placed after free agency in its rightful order), and then during the two-week break between the winter and spring seasons.
NBA 2K? Keep the release plan and title the same but get rid of the incessant microtransactions. Thanks for asking.
Reactions? Let’s hear them!