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I am trying to get into NBA, but ... I don't get it. The regular season seems completely pointless and irrelevant to me. There are 30 teams, and the top 16 (that's more than half!!) make it to the playoffs.

Huh?

Doesn't that make the regular season completely irrelevant and uninteresting to watch? What's the point of it, when most teams go through to playoffs anyways. There's just so little on the line? Is it really all just a seeding-competition to determine who fights who in playoffs?

This is in contrast to European soccer, where the winner of the regular season is the champion. That means every game means something, you're not just waiting for playoffs to come.

  • There are still at least 12 matches to go for teams in the EPL, but unless something significant changes in the next two months (on the order of 1958) only three teams have a realistic chance of the title, and only five have even a mathematical chance. A game involving two of the other fifteen teams is now entirely pointless under the criteria you're focused on. – Nij Feb 17 at 4:46
  • @Nij The point about this question is why the league type regular season is even played if the only point is to eliminate about half of the teams before the playoffs. In a simple regular season system like the EPL every team always stays in the game and there are various other points about the season results like relegation or qualification for continental competitions! – csabinho Feb 17 at 15:56
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The NBA regular season (and similarly, the NHL) isn't pointless. You say that roughly half the teams make the playoffs, which means that roughly half miss the playoffs. The regular season helps filter the top half from the bottom half when determining the playoff field.

In addition, it helps to seed the playoffs. The best teams in each conference get to play the worst teams (that made the playoffs) in each conference. If the 8th best team is truly much worse than the 1st place team, then there should be no problem and the 1st place team gets to advance to the second round easily. If there isn't a large disparity, then the large playoff field does become necessary as a Best-of-Seven series can help ensure that the better team gets to advance.

The biggest reason why the NBA regular season (and NHL, and NFL, etc) matters though is probably the Draft. During each off-season, there is a draft process held in which every team gets to claim signing rights of newly-eligible players. The draft is mostly in reverse-regular-season-standing order, so worse teams get to have a higher seeding in the picks. This helps the league stay competitive.

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  • Regarding the last paragraph: still many teams are not "tanking", even though it would be beneficial for the team that can't reach the playoffs in that season. – csabinho Feb 17 at 23:01
  • Yeah, tanking can be a problem. That is why they have the draft lottery in place. In the NHL, any team that misses the playoffs can win the draft lottery and move up to a Top 3 pick. Teams lower in the standings have better odds but it's not guaranteed. I know the NBA has a similar system but not sure on the specifics – Pawr Feb 19 at 19:34

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