Lakers Nation Roundtable: Which Return-To-Play Format Is Best For NBA
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Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Coming up on three months since the 2019-20 NBA season was indefinitely suspended due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the league appears to be closing in on a return to play.

What’s largely presumed to be set is the NBA will return to action at Walt Disney World in Orlando. The league reportedly considered Las Vegas and Houston for a bubble location as well.

As for how play will resume, the NBA is said to be considering four proposals. They span from having teams play some regular-season games to jumping directly into the playoffs. Some believe commissioner Adam Silver will use the unprecedented situation to implement changes he’s long considered.

Members of the staff shared which approach they believe the NBA should take — both for the regular season and playoffs.

Daniel Starkand (@DStarkand):

In my opinion, the NBA shouldn’t complicate things too much by going to a completely new, World Cup-style group stage format.

For me, the best format to go with is a regular 16-team playoffs (two separate conferences), but give the bubble teams an opportunity to earn the eighth seed with a play-in tournament.

The current eighth seed should have the advantage since they already are in a playoff position, so I think it would make the most sense to have the current 9-12 seeds battle it out in a mini four-team tournament for the right to play the current eighth seed in a best-of-three series for the final postseason spot in each conference.

For example, in the West, the Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings and San Antonio Spurs would play a four-team tournament, with the winner facing off against the Memphis Grizzlies for a chance to play the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round.

While the bubble teams are doing that, all of the other postseason teams have a few weeks to play exhibition games against each other to get into shape for the postseason.

Ron Gutterman (@RonGutterman24):

I think the NBA needs to avoid drastic changes to the playoff format at all costs. Something like a group stage — or the 24-team playoff the NHL is doing — sounds fun on the surface, but it completely disregards the work that players did during the regular season.

I believe they should play some regular season games — about five to seven each team — and then continue with the playoffs as normal, with the only change being a play-in tournament for the No. 8 seed only in each conference.

This way, every playoff team will have played about 70 regular season games, teams that were on the bubble of the playoff will have a real shot to make it, and whoever wins the championship will not have any sort of asterisk next to it.

Matt Borelli (@MCBorelli):

Of all the proposals out there, I think the format that makes the most sense is having 22 teams (the 16 currently occupying playoff spots and the six others within six games of the eight seeds) return for a small slate of regular season games.

This should give teams that have already clinched enough time to prepare for the playoffs. Then, for those on the bubble, a play-in tournament would be held to determine who earns the final seed in their respective conference.

Inviting 22 of the 30 teams back also makes sense from a health perspective since Walt Disney World will reportedly serve as a centralized location for the restart.

With player safety being the top priority, the coronavirus would be easier to manage with fewer teams in the Orlando bubble.

Trevor Lane (@Trevor_Lane):

It seems likely that the NBA is going to create some sort of opportunity for bubble playoff teams to participate, and while that’s a fair path forward, it’s not what is best for the Lakers. Since I want the Lakers to have the best chance possible of winning it all, I’m going to say cutting off all current non-playoff teams is the best option.

That would give the Lakers a first-round matchup with the Grizzlies if they stick with conferences or the Brooklyn Nets if they seed 1-16 regardless of conference. I like those matchups better than taking on opponents that I believe are a bigger threat, like a healthy Portland Trailblazers or New Orleans Pelicans.

Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH)

Even though it doesn’t necessarily benefit the Lakers, I am all for the World Cup-style group stage idea with 20 teams. As a fan nothing would bring more drama and excitement and it gives the teams on the bubble a chance to still make a run in the playoffs. As a soccer fan I’m always glued to the Champions League and World Cup and bringing that to the NBA would be absolute perfection.

The most important thing is player safety so limiting the number teams brought back is the best move. But going straight to a play-in tournament for the those last spots would require bringing teams in for a couple weeks just for one game is just as unnecessary. This group stage idea would give each team at least eight games, and as a viewer, having multiple days of all-day NBA games similar to the first round of the March Madness tournament is a dream.

Not to mention I really don’t need to see teams like the Wizards and Hornets coming back and this limits it to teams like the Pelicans and Trail Blazers who truly had a chance to climb back in the playoffs in a normal season.

There’s ways to adjust it so that the higher seeded teams can have more of an advantage (perhaps playing the lowest tiered teams more, regular season record being a tiebreaker), but overall, the league has a chance to do something completely new and unexpected and they should take advantage of it.

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