There's been some talk in the past few years about changing the NBA playoffs to straight 1-16 seeding: in other words, conferences would be thrown out, and the top 16 best records would make the playoffs and be seeded as such.Would these playoffs be better? Yes or yes? pic.twitter.com/Af3itJRbYx— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) April 13, 2019
The largest hurdle involved is the travel: you would have a bunch of cross-country matchups throughout the entire playoffs. The only way to make it work would be going to a 2-3-2 format to help alleviate changing cities, which I previously determined would not have a huge effect on the higher seed's win probability.
It would certainly make for more interesting matchups, and slightly more parity, but the expected conference finals would remain the same: Milwaukee/Toronto/Golden State/Denver.
The hurdle to this happening is not really travel, or unfairness to the higher seeds: it's gate receipts. Compare Boston, who is expected to get 3.2 home games under the current format. They now only get 2.9 home games as the underdog, even though they would get Game 5 at home.
The better teams get less home games throughout by missing out on Game 5 at home (if you're in either conference):
Since this is a zero-sum game, half of the teams in the playoffs would miss out on home games, which makes it tough to pass a two-thirds majority.