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NBA Changes Playoff Format to Favor Winners over Divisional Winners

The NBA board of governors approved a significant change to playoff seeding for the upcoming season.

Effective immediately, the league will seed playoff teams based purely on conference, rather than divisional, standing. In other words, overall won-loss record, and not a team’s placement atop a division, will determine one’s path in the playoffs. In the past, divisional winners received an automatic top-four seeding, bumping teams with better records into lower spots.

Winning a division now works as a tiebreaker, behind head-to-head record, in determining playoff seeding.

The NBA notes in a press release:

As part of the modifications, the eight playoff teams in each conference will be seeded in order of their regular-season record. Most recently, every division winner was guaranteed a top four seed in its respective conference regardless of its record but did not receive home-court advantage if its playoff opponent had a better record.

The Board also approved changes to tiebreak criteria for playoff seeding and home-court advantage. Head-to-head results have become the first criterion to break ties for playoff seeding and home-court advantage between two teams with identical regular-season records; the second criterion is whether a team won its division. Under the old tiebreak system, a division winner was awarded the higher seed and received home-court advantage in a series if the two teams met in the playoffs.

The board of governors voted unanimously to institute the changes.

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