The NBA's Board of Governors unanimously approved a change Tuesday that will seed each conference's eight playoff teams based on win-loss record. Previously, division winners were guaranteed a top-four seed and had potential to leapfrog non-division champs that owned a better record.
What does this mean for the Boston Celtics moving forward? With the Atlantic Division not expected to be a powerhouse this season, the old seeding format might have afforded Boston an opportunity to sneak into the top half of the East playoff seedings by simply finishing ahead of a four-team pack (Toronto, New York, Brooklyn and Philadelphia). The new seeding format closes that loophole.
The rule change was spurred, in part, by the Western Conference seedings last season, in which the 55-win San Antonio Spurs ended up as the sixth seed, while the 51-win Portland Trail Blazers -- winners of the Northwest Division -- earned the fourth seed. The Spurs were eliminated by the third-seeded Los Angeles Clippers in a thrilling seven-game first-round series, while the Blazers were dumped in a breezy five-game series by the fifth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies.
Now division titles won't matter more than a celebratory hat and T-shirt; not that they ever mattered in Boston, where 17 NBA title banners hang in the rafters at TD Garden and there's no reference to 21 Atlantic Division crowns.
While the Atlantic Division hasn't been a powerhouse in recent seasons, it's worth noting the division champ in the past five non-lockout-shortened seasons have averaged a modest 51.4 wins. The Raptors won 49 games last season and would have been the East's fourth seed regardless of seeding procedure.
In 2014-15, the Celtics finished 40-42 -- nine games behind the Raptors -- and earned the seventh seed in the East. Boston is hoping that, with much of its core back from a second-half surge and having added veteran big men Amir Johnson and David Lee, it can take the next step in its quest to return to contender status.