Letting the highest-seeded teams in the NBA playoffs choose their opponent could add an extra wave of excitement to an often-pedestrian first round. That’s the argument of Lauren Theisen of Deadspin, who advocates the process used by the Southern Professional Hockey League.
In the system, the No. 1 seed, by record, would get to select their opponent from among conference playoff qualifiers. (Theisen briefly mentions ditching conference distinctions, but it feels like travel considerations would factor in and spoil the fun.) The No. 2 seed would select next, and so on.
In the standard bracket, 4-5 matchups are the most tense. That would probably remain true in this system, assuming higher-seeded teams would avoid the best rival. 1-8 and 2-7 matchups would get some extra “sauce” if the underdog knew they’d been hand-picked by the favorites. Selection Day would be tense, and the period between matching up and playing Game 1 filled with the “Oh no you didn’t” vibe.
The second round and beyond would revert to matchups based on record, with the best remaining team facing the worst by winning percentage.
Would you be in favor of this system? How would you feel if a high seed called out the Trail Blazers, or if the Blazers brass were tasked with selecting their favored opponent? Debate in the comments.