NBA Playoffs are Least Exciting By Andrew Gardner

You just have to get in. It doesn't matter how you get there but once your favorite sports team reaches the playoffs, it always seems like there is a chance for a magical run, no matter what the odds are. Everybody will make their own opinions and predictions about what they expect to happen in the playoffs, but it never turns out the way people predict, which is why sports are so great.

Each sports league has a similar way of formatting their playoffs but they all come with their own form of excitement. The NFL has single elimination games which makes every game a must watch, the MLB also has a single elimination game along with 7 games series, and the NBA/NHL have 4 grueling 7 games rounds that need to be won to take home the trophy. But between the 4 leagues which one has the least exciting playoff action? I believe everybody can have their own opinion but I've gotten some pretty compelling information that backs up my take, that the NBA has the boringest playoffs of all leagues.

The NBA is gripping to watch throughout the regular season, with many interesting story lines revolving around teams, players, and coaches. But once the regular season ends and the postseason play begins, the NBA lacks behind the other leagues in interesting and exciting play. For me the main thing that makes playoffs exciting are the uncertainty of them. If the best team won the championship every year there would be no point in watching the playoffs, except for the fact that this almost always happens in the NBA. As of 2015 there had been 68 champions to date. Of those champions, 72% where the 1-seed and 97% were teams  seeded between 1-3. There have only been 2 teams in NBA history to win the title who haven't been a top 3 seed, the 1995 Houston Rockets (6 Seed) and the 1969 Boston Celtics (4 Seed). It goes even farther then that when we look at early rounds of the playoffs. Only 5, 8-seeds and 5, 7-seeds have advanced to the second round of the playoffs which shows how slim the odds are of this upset happening. The crazier part is that out of those 10 teams to move on to the second round, not one advanced to the following conference finals round, meaning a 7 or 8 seed has never made it past the second round. These upsets are also statistically less likely to happen now then they were pre-2003. This is because the NBA's first round used to be best of 5, instead of best of 7 and if you know anything about basic statistics then you know that the shorter the series is, then the more likely it will be that an upset will occur.

Having a variety of teams win the championship is also something I like to see when I watch the playoffs year after year. It's awesome to see a dynasty continue, but It often gets repetitive seeing the same team or player raise the trophy year after year. Between 2015-2018 the NBA had the same finals match up every year, consisting of the Warriors vs Cavaliers. Why does the regular season and early rounds of the playoffs even matter if you know who's going to make it to the finals year in and year out. One other stat that is mind boggling to me is that the Lakers and the Celtics have won a combined 33 titles, or in other terms 45.2% of the NBA's trophies. That's two teams make up only 6.6% of the league and they have won 45.2% of the championships. Even as a Celtics fan that just doesn't make the playoffs as exciting for me to watch. Carrying off of that there are only 5 teams that have won more then 3 NBA Titles, these include the Celtics, Lakers, Bulls, Warriors, and Spurs. These 5 teams make up just 16.7% of the league, yet have won 68.5% of the championships. To me this just shows that the NBA is a league where the rich get richer, and the smaller market teams have an almost impossible chance of competing year in and year out. 

As a fan I always want my team to have a chance in the playoffs, but when I look at how slim of a chance it is for a low seeded NBA teams to advance I often wonder why I would get my hopes up for my team, when it's almost statistically impossible that they will win the finals if they aren't a top 3 team in either conference. The NFL also has a large number of teams that advance to the finals, however their games are single elimination so they are a lot more exciting to watch rather than the longer, drawn out 7 game series. The NHL has a nearly identical playoff format as the NBA, yet they seem to have less of these problems then the NBA has. In 2012 the 8-seed Los Angeles Kings took home the Stanley Cup after an unlikely playoff run. As of 2012 only 35% of Stanley Cup Champions had been a 1-seed and 82% being from seeds between 1-3.

Why does the NBA have these lack of upsets in their playoffs? It’s definitely not the sport of basketball because March Madness is one of the most exciting  tournaments in all of sports. But what's the difference between March Madness and the NBA playoffs? The length of each series. For College it’s only 1 game and in the NBA it’s 7. Although it’s still unlikely, the reason for some of the craziest upsets in March Madness history is because there’s only one game, winner take all. Watching UMBC upset Virginia as a 16-seed was an amazing game to watch, but if it were played as a 7 game series, Virginia would easily come out on top. If the NBA wants to fix these problems and make the playoffs more exciting, they need to look at shortening the earlier series rounds for some unpredictable April madness.

Leave a comment