Mark Cuban, the provocative Dallas Mavericks owner, wants the NBA to expand its playoffs from eight teams to 10 per conference.

Cuban argues that growing the playoff pool will result in fewer franchises blowing off the end of the season and that fan bases will be more engaged when their teams still have a fighting chance. And it would mean that the loaded Western Conference will have more top teams qualifying.

But do fans really want to see more subpar teams make the postseason tourney? Should the league really be in the business of rewarding sub-.500 regular seasons with a chance at the Larry O’Brien Trophy?

Doubtful and no.

Oklahoma City fans were rightfully miffed this season. The Thunder failed to qualify for the postseason, despite finishing second in the Northwest Division (and by the way, what is a team in Oklahoma doing in the “northwest” division?) and having a better regular-season tilt than three Eastern Conference teams.

Let’s take a look at how the playoffs are structured at present.

The three division winners in each conference and the team with the next-best record are seeded one through four. This structure means that a division winner is seeded no worse than fourth, and if a team is in a stacked division and finishes with the second-best conference record, it gets a high seed.

Those top four teams have home-court advantage in the first round. The next four conference teams with the best record, regardless of division, are seeded five through eight.

You have to give NBA commissioner Adam Silver some credit. He is open to new ideas in playoff structure, including taking the top 16 teams regardless of conference affiliation.

Another possibility is seeding teams in each conference just by record, with no advantage to winning a division.

Let’s add expanded playoffs into the mix. Or let’s not.

The idea of a longer run of games by more mediocre teams feels like a quick money-grab. It’s a bad idea.

Here are five reasons why.

1. Divisions by Zero

If Silver’s notion of straight seedings by record is in place along with more teams, will the divisions still exist? If so, why should they, if winning one means little to nothing?

The mostly-by-geography divisions provide for natural rivalries. Think Celtics vs Knicks, Lakers vs Clippers or Mavericks vs Rockets.

Right now, each team plays four games against each divisional counterpart and two games against each other conference team, giving more opportunities for those rivalry games.

2 and 3. A Meaningless Regular Season and Long Overall Season

The 82-game season is mighty long, stretching from late October to mid-April. The playoffs last another two months, ending in late June.

Do we really want to be watching the NBA Finals on the Fourth of July? And if 20 of the 30 teams make the post-season, what do those midwinter games really matter?

No. 4: So Bad It's Bad

In an expanded 10-game conference tourney, the most likely structures are to give either two or six teams a bye.

Let’s go with the latter and look at what the 2014-15 playoffs would have been in that first round:

10. Miami Heat (37-45) vs. 7. Boston Celtics (40-42)
9. Indiana Pacers (38-44) vs. 8. Brooklyn Nets (38-44)
10. Phoenix Suns (39-43) vs. 7. Dallas Mavericks (50-32)
9. Oklahoma City Thunder (45-35) vs. 8. New Orleans Pelicans (45-35)

Not exactly barn-burning series.

If you go back five years, 16 teams with sub-.500 records would have qualified, including those immortal 2011-12 Detroit Pistons (25-41) and 2009-10 Indiana Pacers (32-50) squads.

No. 5: Fans Won't Care

It’s springtime. The snow has finally melted, there’s gardening to be done, Little League games to coach, and the start of baseball season has even Cubs fans hopeful.

But I’m going to stay in and watch two bad teams fight for the right to be LeBron'd in the second round? No thanks.

Cuban’s idea is provocative, and given Silver’s commendable willingness to mix things up, it’s fine to throw the notion on the table.

But the NBA should focus on other matters and leave well enough alone.

By Joe Messineo


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