The last week of news has given the impression that the NBA is ramping up its efforts to return and finish off the season that was postponed following Rudy Gobert's positive test for coronavirus and the ensuing pandemic that shut down everything, everywhere. As it stands, the league seems optimistic that their best chance to finish the season and crown a champion comes in the form of two centralized locations (Las Vegas for the Western Conference, Disney World for the Eastern Conference).
What has yet to be decided is what the league will do when it actually returns. Time constraints are very real, and simply resuming the season where they left off wouldn't work, especially with the centralized location concept. Launching right into the playoffs may not be the best path, either, because every player on every team is going to want and probably need some kind of warm-up before playing games that matter. That decision also impacts the teams definitively out of the playoff race and the teams that were on the bubble who, if the season had continued, may have been able to secure a postseason spot.
To that end, Shams Charnia reported that the league sent out a survey to all 30 general managers with the various options on the table for a return. These include an expanded playoff field, resuming the regular season, as well as asking GMs how late they'd be willing to let the season go on, with the latest date being November 1. Here are all the options, per The Athletic:
Season formats for consideration:
— Advance directly to playoffs: (16 teams, four rounds, best-of-seven series) with postseason teams based on standings as of March 12
— A “Playoffs Plus” option: Expanding the number of teams with the opportunity to play, either through holding a play-in tournament to determine the final seed(s) in playoffs, to be played by “bubble teams” or replacing the first round of the playoffs with a group stage.
— If “Playoffs Plus” — how many teams should return to play: 18, 20, 22 or 24?
— Resume regular season with all 30 teams: All teams plays same number of games.
— Resume regular season with all 30 games, plus play-in: All teams play same number of games, followed by play-in tournament and traditional playoffs.
— “Playoffs Plus” play-in format options: Play-in tournament featuring bubble teams for 8th seed; play-in tournament for 7th and 8th seed; or group stage that replaces first round of playoffs and all participating in groups (each team plays two games against each group opponent and top two teams from each group advances to traditional second round).
Scrimmage games prior to any restart:
— 2, 3, 4, or 5
Total regular season games:
— 72 or 76
— Traditional (East/West) or reseed all teams
Latest possible date for finish:
— Labor Day, Sept. 15, Oct. 1, Oct. 15 or Nov. 1
Playoff Plus seems to be the fairest way to go about things. Resuming the regular season probably won't garner a lot of traction with the players. The risk factor remains quite high for everyone involved, and it's hard to imagine many players would want to undertake that risk for anything other than the playoffs. A play-in tournament for the seventh and eighth seeds would be my personal preference, although that's more for the West than the East.
At the very least, the survey shows the NBA is holding true to their word and are willing to try anything and everything to ensure the 2019-20 season ends with a championship.