Unlike NHL, NBA eyes more regular-season games prior to playoffs

Damian Lillard Playing Against Suns
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Andrew Ortenberg


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I'm an NFL handicapper here at Pickswise who was raised in a household full of sports fanatics. Since I unfortunately never had LeBron James' jumping ability I wasn't able to make it to the NBA, and chose writing about sports as the next best thing. An avid sports bettor myself, I'm excited to get to write about the industry as it gets set to take off across the country. Buckle up. For Andrew Ortenberg media enquiries, please email contact@pickswise.com.

The NBA is not talkin’ about playoffs just yet.

It is, however, talking about a return to play—and that potential return continues to make progress. At a board of governors meeting on Friday, four different scenarios for the resumption of the 2019-20 season were discussed. The scenario reportedly receiving the majority of votes would bring 22 contending teams to Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Fla. later this summer.

Key points for the 22-team plan, all of which are tentative, are as follows:

– Six teams not currently in playoff position will continue their seasons. They 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 resume their seasons.

– The remainder of the regular season will include eight games per participating team.

– Following the conclusion of the regular season, either a single-elimination play-in tournament or a handful of short series will determine the eighth and final playoff spot in each conference (the NHL, by contrast, will go straight into the playoffs).

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

Among the other proposals were for 16 teams, 20 teams, or all 30 teams to continue the season in Orlando. With 16 teams, the league would have foregone the remainder of the regular season and jumped straight into the playoffs using the current standings for seeding. But teams still in contention that are not in the playoffs as it stands right now would object. In the 20-team format, four franchises currently outside the playoff cut line would be invited to Orlando. Some kind of group stage, perhaps similar to what is seen in soccer’s World Cup, would take place prior to bracket stages. That format was likely deemed too complicated. With 30 teams, a 72-game regular season would be completed before the playoffs would begin with a play-in round for the lowest seeds. The latter plan was probably scrapped in part due to the fact that clubs who have already been mathematically eliminated from postseason contention would have no interest in putting themselves at risk of the coronavirus to play basically meaningless basketball. Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said as much, while Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard insisted that he is only playing if his team is given a chance to to make the playoffs.

While the 22-squad format may not be perfect, it looks like the best option.

“We are lining up behind [Silver] on this,” one unnamed owner told ESPN. “The posturing will end. Nothing is going to be perfect for everyone.”

Heck, any kind of resumption will be perfect for any top team that has realistic title aspirations. They just want a chance. That group consists of the—in standings order starting at the top—the Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, Toronto Raptors, Los Angeles Clippers, and Boston Celtics. The Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, and Miami Heat are not too far behind but are considerable longshots to lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy.

The Lakers are +210 favorites to win it all in addition to being +120 favorites in the Western Conference. Milwaukee is a +275 second choice for the title, followed by the Clippers at +300 before a huge drop-off separates the rest of the field.

Be sure to follow our daily NBA expert picks whenever the 2019-20 campaign resumes.

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