In the 2014-2015 NBA season, the championship defending San Antonio Spurs won 55 games during the regular season. The Portland Trail Blazers won 51 games, and yet Portland was awarded the fourth seed, while the Spurs dropped to six. The Spurs would go on to play the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs, relinquishing their title as they lost in seven games.
It would only make logical sense that the team with the most wins would be the higher seed, right? However, the NBA rules guaranteed a top-four seed to the divisional champs, which the Trail Blazers were for the Northwest Division. Had the Spurs rightfully been a higher seed, would they have had a better, (or more fair) chance at remaining the champs? The what-ifs to that question are exhausting to debate and can never be answered, but the rules can be modified, and on Tuesday the NBA announced that they have done just that.
The NBA Board of Governors approved several changes to the playoff seeding format, which also includes modifications to the tie-break procedure.
The divisional champs in each conference will no longer be guaranteed a top-four playoff seed. In fact, winning the division means little to nothing other than a meaningless celebration and hanging a banner for the accomplishment. The playoff seeds will now be determined by the regular season records, as they should be.
As for how to determine who wins the tie-breaker, head-to-head results are the first criteria and whether or not the team vying for the tie-breaker won their division. Under the old system, the division winner won both the higher seed and home-court advantage if they met in the playoffs.
The new rules will go into effect for the upcoming 2015-2016 season.