I'm not generally a huge sports fan, but I enjoy the NBA playoffs as long as the Lakers are in them. I use that preface to say that, although there may be problems I just don't see, I really like Stuart Benjamin's proposal to let the top seeds pick their opponents.
My proposal is straightforward. At the end of the last game of a given round of the playoffs (or, for the first round, the last game of the regular season), the first seed would choose which team in the bottom half of the seedings it wanted to play. The second seed would then choose among the remaining teams, and so on. This need not delay anyone’s travel plans; the selection could proceed in order (like a draft), with each team having a few minutes to make its selection. The only difference between my approach and the current one is that the best teams would have some ability to choose their opponents.More choices means more drama, more arguments, more strategy, and so forth. I like it.
Why make this change? It truly rewards the teams with the best records, and it avoids the problem of a top team having the bad luck to be pitted against another top team while teams with fewer wins have weaker opponents. Maybe the 7th seed slumped at the end of the season or has just suffered injuries, whereas the 8th seed ended the season strongly and would have had a better record if its star had not been hurt in the beginning of the season.
My proposal would make for better matchups. Leagues like the best teams to meet deep into the playoffs, and this makes it more likely that that will happen – because the team with the best record will avoid playing the stronger teams until late in the playoffs.
It might make travel plans a lot more complicated and expensive, but by restricting top-half teams to picking bottom-half teams it wouldn't be hard to keep the same home/away calendar.