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NBA is Back!

First things first – basketball is on the way! I am excited to see NBA hoops again. With the obvious caveat of health and safety for all involved, I am stoked for the return of games. Going on three months now of no competition has felt like forever. It is going to be weird and abnormal without fans and neutral site games but I am ready to get back in the saddle. We’re BACK! Bring. It. On.

In case you missed it, the NBA is on the verge of voting on their 2019-2020 Relaunch(?) tomorrow, June 4th. The owners are expected to agree to the proposal, which will have July 31st as the return date for real games. They are bringing all current 16 playoff teams, along with six additional teams who are able to fight for their right to scrape back into the playoff picture. Also, teams who have clinched (or now clinched, given the reduction of regular season games) will be jockeying for seeding within their conference.

If a team finishes within 4 games of the 8 seed, they will receive a mini play-in matchup (series?) with the 8-seed ahead of them. The 9-seed must win two games over the 8-seed to “steal” their playoff spot; the 8-seed will just have to win one game to clinch their slot. I like to think of it as a three game series where the 8-seed starts up 1-0. From there, it appears as the playoffs will proceed as normal, East and West sides of the bracket, seeded 1-8 as always.

As many have stated, there was no perfect solution to this conundrum brought upon the league by COVID-19. This particular plan that they have chosen gives us several consequences that range from good to odd to unfair, and all the way to sad.

The Good

  • More basketball games! The popular alternative was just hopping straight to the playoffs but now we get 88 additional games.
  • Toiling superstars out of the playoffs will be seen/Zion playoff chances are not dead. “Dame Time” is alive.
  • We will get a champion!

The Unfair

  • With the worst eight teams in the league turning into spectators, now the Pelicans lose out on their cushy schedule and must rack up wins against only the best teams in the league. You may recall they were actually favored by projections to make the playoffs over Memphis due to the discrepancy in remaining schedule strength.
  • Charlotte, just 1.5 games behind Washington, is eliminated by the random 22 team cutoff. At 23-42 they probably don’t have much to gripe about though.
  • Eight teams will miss out on the chance to do some player developing (ATL) or team assessing (MIN – whole new team post trade deadline) as they sit on the sidelines. Maybe there is some sort of offseason mini-camp or exhibition season in the works, as these teams may go about 9 months between games by the start of the ‘20-21 season.

The Odd

  • 13 West teams and 9 East teams have been selected to play in Orlando.
  • Teams will be finishing the year with a different amount of games played, ranging all the way from 64 (MIN) to 75 (DAL).
  • Bench players are reportedly being forced to sit spread out in the stands. When they check in are they not going to be colliding and interacting with players just the same?
  • The last possible date for the NBA Finals is October 12th. This year the season began on October 22nd! 

The Sad

  • Eight lonely teams are just completely left out of the reboot. It isn’t merely an expanded tournament or playoff expansion, there will just be three weeks of the regular season that 27% of the Association will not be partaking in.
  • Though it’s been known for a while, teams will not be playing in their home arenas, thus removing the ability for fans to enjoy the playoffs live in person.

One thing not yet known (or released) is how they determine the schedule for each team’s 8 regular season games to be played. I am excited for the angst to come out of who got given the hardest schedule and conspiracy theories on why that is the case. It is also unclear to me at the moment what happens if multiple teams tie for 9th (or 8th), what tiebreakers will they use? 

Ultimately, I am good with this resolution the league has chosen. My biggest issue with it is that you are cutting eight teams from playing in the continuation of the “regular season” – but those teams weren’t going to have an effect on the title anyhow. Prior to this news, I was saying just going into the postseason seemed like the cleanest, but this provides some additional revenue and allows teams near the playoffs to have a chance (albeit a small one) to still get in.

It feels like we will get some meaningless games (MIL-WSH, LAL-SAS) along the way, but there are actually plenty of important seeding battles to be decided, so I think the majority of teams will be putting forth full effort in the eight game sprint to the end. Here’s to the return of basketball. 

Is it July 31st yet?

Sam Johnson

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