“The NBA’s back”: What the 22-team restart in Orlando will look like

Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler looks to pass.
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Ricky Dimon

NBA· 1 year ago

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Since graduating from Davidson (The College That Stephen Curry Built), I have been writing about sports--just about any and all you can think of!--and coaching tennis in Atlanta, Ga. Beyond the four major sports, I am an avid tennis fan and cover the ATP Tour on a daily basis. If I'm not busy writing, you can generally find me on a tennis court or traveling the world wherever a sporting event takes me.

The 2019-20 NBA season is getting a second life.

It was announced on Wednesday that the season will, in fact, be saved after being suspended on March 11 due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. An official confirmation will come on Thursday, when the league’s board of governors is widely expected to approve a plan that would send 22 teams to Orlando, Fla. starting in late July.

“The NBA’s back,” wrote ESPN insider Adrian Wojnarowski at the end of his latest breaking news bomb.

A Wojnarowski report is as good as confirmation, so there is no need to wait for Thursday’s final word. It’s going to happen. And here is what the resumption of play will look like.

The new format

– The 16 teams currently in playoff position plus six teams within six games of playoff position will continue their seasons at Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando. The six participants on the outside looking in are the Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns, and Washington Wizards.

– All teams more than six games out of the traditional playoff picture are eliminated and will not be present.

– All 22 participating teams will play eight more games in the regular season.

– If the ninth-place team in a conference is within four games of No. 8 following the conclusion of the regular season, a play-in tournament will be held to determine the eighth and final seed. The No. 8 seed going into that play-in tournament would have to lose twice to be eliminated, while the ninth seed would be eliminated with its first loss.

– Upon determining the eight seeds, a traditional 16-team bracket will get underway.

– The season restart begins on July 31 and the latest possible end date is Oct. 12 (Game 7 of the NBA Finals).

In addition to the six aforementioned teams, the 16 teams currently in playoff position are as follows, in standings order:

Eastern Conference

1. Milwaukee Bucks
2. Toronto Raptors
3. Boston Celtics
4. Miami Heat
5. Indiana Pacers
6. Philadelphia 76ers
7. Brooklyn Nets
8. Orlando Magic
(plus the Wizards)

Western Conference

1. Los Angeles Lakers
2. Los Angeles Clippers
3. Denver Nuggets
4. Utah Jazz
5. Oklahoma City Thunder
6. Houston Rockets
7. Dallas Mavericks
8. Memphis Grizzlies
(plus the Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs, and Suns)

Playoff contenders

With only eight games remaining in the regular season, a total of 13 postseason spots have been clinched. Everyone through the 76ers is in in the Eastern Conference, while everyone through the Mavericks is in in the West. Previously, based on the normal 82-game schedule, only the Bucks, Raptors, Celtics, and Lakers had clinched.

While no plan was ever going to be perfect, this one seems like the best. Twenty-two teams get a chance to return to the court and the eight that don’t avoid the hassle—and potential health risk—of getting back in gear to play relatively meaningless basketball. Any kind of resumption is especially good news for the legitimate contending teams and the top players like LeBron James, who bids for his fourth NBA title. James and the Lakers are +200 favorites to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy, followed by Milwaukee (+275) and the Clippers (+300). No other squad is better than +1200.

Be sure to follow our daily NBA expert picks for every game starting in late July.

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