Today, the NBA announced that they will begin seeding teams in conferences strictly by wins and losses. The first tiebreaker between teams will be their head to head records. If that isn't enough, then it will default to whether a team has won their division or not.
In the past, division winners were automatically granted the fourth seed, and thus home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Essentially, winning a division has become next to meaningless. Divisions themselves are now only meaningful when it comes to scheduling.
In the short term, this change will definitely hinder the Thunder's chances at home court advantage next year. The West will be a powerful conference, and there's no telling how many teams will find themselves in the upper tier. It's not hard to imagine the Thunder in the middle of the pack come playoff time next year. Under the old rules, the Thunder could have potentially parlayed their status as a division winner into securing home court advantage in the first round. The Northwest Division is almost certain to be weak next season. The Blazers lost a ton of players, the Nuggets haven't found a direction, the Jazz are still young, and the Timberwolves are rebuilding. It's hard to imagine any of those teams competing with a healthy Thunder squad record-wise.
Of course, this is only a minor and hypothetical complaint. But if you look at how each team is generally expected to perform, I believe that the Thunder are one of the most likely to be negatively affected by the rule change. Getting rid of the divisions makes sense, but why only do it halfway? If Adam Silver is serious about reform, he'll get rid of the division system that puts Oklahoma City in the same geographic region as Portland and Minnesota.
The division scheduling system, as it's in place now, most negatively affects three teams in the Northwest division. Think about it this way. The four closest NBA arenas to Oklahoma City are located in Dallas, Memphis, San Antonio, and Houston. Yet none of those teams are in the Thunder's division. Minnesota's problems with scheduling are even worse. The four closest arenas to Minnesota are Milwaukee, Chicago, Indiana, and Cleveland. All four of those teams are in another conference. Portland also has major issues. They're the most geographically isolated team in the NBA. To top it off, four of the five closest teams to Portland are not in their division.
To be sure, a simple straight division alignment would not solve the problems of everyone, namely the Timberwolves. But the conferences have needed re-alignment as well, with the Western conference dominating the East for 12 of the past 13 seasons. There are a lot of great proposals out there. If I were to represent the Thunder at a hypothetical "NBA conference realignment debate", I'd happily accept any proposal that gets at least two of the four closest teams to OKC in the Thunder's division.
What do you think about the NBA's seeding change? Let us know in the comments!