Written by Chris Kubala
The NBA has been on pause since March 11 when Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz tested positive for COVID-19. That was the trigger of what was an avalanche of sports being paused due to the coronavirus. Since that point, we’ve seen the return of UFC and NASCAR along with baseball overseas. Lately, we’ve heard of news about the NHL’s return to play in an effort to get their season restarted. The NBA opened team facilities earlier this month to get players back on the floor, at least in some capacity. There are no clear-cut answers as to how things will pan out going forward but we do have some information about how teams are thinking.
According to Shams Charamia of The Athletic and Stadium, NBA commissioner Adam Silver and the league office has notified the Board of Governors that the target date to resume the season is July 31. In addition, reports say that the league has talked about four different potential options to return this season.
According to the poll of league GMs, 16 of the league’s 30 teams have advocated for a return going straight to the postseason with the regular 16-team field, scrapping the rest of the regular season. Eight other GMs voted to come back and play some regular season games before heading into the postseason. In addition, five GMs voted to head to the postseason with a play-in tournament or a group format similar to the World Cup while a lone GM wants to see the league finish the regular season with all 30 teams, playing the 82-game format, and then going to the playoffs after that.
In addition, 60 percent of the GMs polled leaned toward a 72-game season. A supermajority, 83 percent, of individuals, have leaned toward an expanded playoff field with at least 20 teams. Half the league voted for a 20-team field, seven teams voted for 24 teams, five voted for 18 teams and three GMs voted for 22 teams in the field. In the expanded field scenario, a play-in tournament for the final two playoff spots in each conference drew the most support. In that scenario, the top six teams in each conference would advance directly to the postseason. The second-most backed option was a play-in tournament solely for the final playoff spot with the other seven teams in each conference advancing. It was a near-even split based on keeping the typical eight teams per conference field (16 votes) to scrapping conferences and seeding 1-16 based on record, regardless of conference (14) for this season.
In addition to those possible concepts, the league has also discussed expanded rosters and the flexibility to replace guys who are sick or injured during the course of a team’s playoff run. Having that flexibility to make moves so a team doesn’t have a shortened rotation in the middle of crunch time is a sound option that brings a bit more parity into a season that has been extremely topsy-turvy on its own merits. Expanding the field may be the best course of action, especially in the Western Conference, where the ninth through 12th-place teams were separated by a mere half-game and stood within four games of the eighth-place Grizzlies, who held the final playoff spot. According to Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA Board of Governors are slated to vote next Thursday with the expectation that Silver’s plan to return to play in Orlando will be approved.
The league is doing its best to ensure that they’ll be able to return and close out the season. Player health and safety is going to be the paramount thing and that could be a stumbling block to having the entire 30-team field return. It could turn out being like the NHL setup but right now, it’s in flux. The fact that GMs and most players are both on the side of going to the postseason, and an expanded field at that, shows that there is plenty of intent to return to the floor. Now we have an idea as to when that might be.