Stern just announced that the NBA will be, barring approval, changing the playoff format for next season, due to the shortsightedness of allowing the division winners to have the top 3 seeds. Now, a division winner can only go as low as the 4th seed. Of course, I would have gone for broke, and allowed division winners to be seeded as low as 8th. However, Stern wants to give some credit to the division winners, and this is certainly a big difference. This certainly does solve the problem of teams having an incentive to LOSE, as there was this year (the Clippers lost a bunch of games to finish in the 6th spot to face the Nuggets, and avoid playing Dallas in the 4-5 game). Even if you wanted to finish in the 5th spot, as opposed to the 3rd spot in the new rules, that seems like it would be difficult to do, and would require the loss of too many games, because the 6th seed would have a LARGE incentive to get into the 5th spot to play a weak 4-seed.
Anyway, the important question is what would have happened this season if David Stern had a time machine to change the rules. For instance, the Western conference would have turned out completely different. Let's just explore what would have happened:
1-San Antonio vs. 8-Sacramento – same outcome, with the Spurs winning in 6.
4-Denver vs. 5-Memphis – Eeesh. This could have been a wild series. As a matter of fact, instead of Denver GM Kiki Vandewegehe losing his job, he would have had his job 2 extra weeks until the Nuggets got bounced in the 2nd round. Memphis would have also won their 1st and 2nd playoff games, resulting in Memphis’s minute coach Mike Fratello going out and getting wasted because he usually performs poorly in the first round. And by the first round, I mean the playoffs in general. Fratello must be the "Czar" of regular season coaches who can't succeed in the post-season. He may even be worse than Marty Schotenheimer, who at least appears in conference championship games. I mean, Fratello had Dominique Wilkins in his prime!
3-Phoenix Suns vs. 6-LA Clippers – Aye carumba! This would have been a wild and wacky 1st-round series. Of course, the argument could be made that the LA Clippers would have actually won more games down the stretch to avoid the Suns. Phoenix in 7 (who knows?).
2-Dallas Mavs vs. 7-LA Lakers – This would have resulted in the Lakers getting demolished, as opposed to witnessing some of those insane Laker-Suns games that we saw this year. Dallas in 5.
San Antonio over Denver in 5. Carmelo Anthony tells everyone he's proud that he's not the next Tracy McGrady, because he can at least win in the playoffs.
Dallas over Phoenix in 6. Mark Cuban is finally happy, as his new, young PGs outplay, outwit, and outlast MVP and former Dallas Maverick Steve Nash.
And then San Antonio would have had more momentum, possibly, to overtake Dallas because Dallas’s secret weapon, Devin Harris, would already have been exposed and then exhausted, from dealing with Nash and Barbosa in Round two! Could the David Stern time machine have allowed San Antonio to make it to the NBA Finals??? The world may never know.