The 2019-20 NBA season will officially resume at Walt Disney World in Orlando on July 31. The league’s board of governors approved the plan earlier in the week with the players’ association following suit on Friday.
Suspended NBA season
The season has been suspended since March 11 after Utah Jazz star center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. Once the season resumes in late July, it will have been suspended for north of four months.
NBA teams returning to play
Under the proposal approved by both the players and the Association, 22 of the NBA’s 30 teams will return to action in Orlando. This gives six teams currently on the outside of the playoff race a fighting chance to earn a trip to the postseason.
- Portland Trail Blazers (29-37)
- New Orleans Pelicans (28-36)
- Sacramento Kings (28-36)
- San Antonio Spurs (27-36)
- Phoenix Suns (26-39)
- Washington Wizards (24-40)
If the eighth seed in a specific conference is more than four games ahead of the team with the ninth-best record, no play-in tournament will be needed. However, this changes dramatically if the circumstance warrants it.
- If the team with the eighth-best record in its conference is four games or fewer ahead of the team with the ninth-best record in the same conference, then we’ll have a battle for the final spot between those two teams.
- The ninth seed would have to win both games of a two-game series in order to nab the eighth spot and eventually take on the top-seeded team in said conference.
This makes it rather interesting in the Western Conference. As of right now, the bottom of the standings look like this.
8. Memphis Grizzlies: 32-33
9. Portland Trail Blazers: 29-37
10. New Orleans Pelicans: 28-36
11. Sacramento Kings: 28-36
12. Sacramento Kings: 27-36
13. Phoenix Suns: 26-39
Each team will play eight regular-season games before the playoffs start. Looking at the standings, it’s hard to envision a team like the Phoenix Suns having much of a chance.
Back east, it’s more clear cut. The Washington Wizards are the only team in the conference returning to play who are not currently in playoff positioning. They are 5.5 games behind the Orlando Magic for the eighth seed and six games behind the Brooklyn Nets for the seventh spot.
NBA Playoff format
- After giving some thought to reseeding the playoffs based on overall records and doing away with conferences, the NBA has decided to go back to the traditional route.
- A total of 16 teams will make the playoffs, eight from each conference. The playoffs will include best-of-seven series from Round 1 to the NBA Finals.
Walt Disney World notes
- A maximum of 1,600 people are allowed to be on the “campus” at any given time. As teams are eliminated from playoff contention and leave Orlando, others will be able to join in. That likely includes more family members. Families will be able to join players after the first round of the playoffs.
- NBA players are allowed to go out and entertain themselves at night. Though, they must follow proper social distancing guidelines and remain on the Walt Disney World campus.
- Teams will be housed at a combination of Walt Disney Resort hotels in Orlando and ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex. There’s some thought being given to the idea that teams with the best records will be able to choose where they stay.
- Practice facilities will be set up with multiple courts inside a convention center. Said facilities include training rooms. Teams will be able to participate in three-hour windows.
COVID-19 policies and the NBA season
- Coronavirus testing will be conducted every day. A minimum of a seven-day quarantine will be required for a player, should he test positive. The NBA will not stop the season over positive tests.
- The NBPA will conduct coronavirus testing every night, likely using mouth swabs/light nasal swabs rather than the full invasive nasal swab.
- Now that widespread testing is available to the general public, that latter point is not a huge deal. It was a point of contention during the early stages of the NBA’s return-to-play plan.
NBA season timeline
- After each team plays a few exhibition games, the regular season is set to resume on July 31. The opponents each team plays before the playoffs will be drawn from their original remaining schedule.
- The NBA Finals would end no later than Oct. 12 with the 2020 NBA Draft slated for a mere three days later. The expectation was that the 2020-21 NBA season would start on Dec. 1. Although, that now seems highly unlikely.
- As has been known, no fans will be in attendance for games once the season resumes.
- The NBA is considering using NBA 2K to pump in crowd noise in empty arenas.
- The 2020 NBA Draft lottery is scheduled for Aug. 25.
- Players are expected to receive their full paychecks after taking a 25% cut during the spring.
- There is a proposed 35-person travel limit.
- Antibody COVID-19 testing will not be utilized.