For the first time since the NBA went on hiatus on March 11, there seems to be real traction for one single return-to-play plan. There will not be an official vote until the Board of Governors meet on Thursday, but the assumption is that commissioner Adam Silver’s 22-team plan will be approved, and the 2019-20 season will resume on July 31.
That start still feels like a long ways away, but it will give teams sufficient time to have their own training camp, followed by some time for teams to get comfortable in the Orlando bubble.
Once July 31 comes around, the 2019-20 NBA season will continue with 22 teams on site in Orlando, and will continue until Oct. 12, which is reportedly the scheduled date for a potential Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
The play-in tournament will also be simpler than originally thought, as only the Nos. 8 and 9 seeds will be involved if a certain criteria is met in the standings, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic:
If the ninth seed is more than four games behind the eighth seed, the eighth seed earns the playoff spot; if the ninth seed is four or fewer games behind, then the eighth and ninth seed will enter a play-in tournament that is double-elimination for the eighth seed and single-elimination for ninth.
Of the 22 teams expected to be invited to Walt Disney World, 16 of those are playoff teams plus the six teams currently within six games of the No. 8 seed. That amounts to the Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, San Antonio Spurs, Sacramento Kings, and Phoenix Suns in the Western Conference, and the Washington Wizards in the East.
All 22 teams are expected to play eight regular-season games. That will put the Los Angeles Lakers at 71 games played on the season. After the eight games, if either No. 9 seed is within four games of the eighth-place team — which is very likely in the West — there will then be a play-in tournament.
The Nos. 8 and 9 seeds will play each other once. If the No. 8 team wins, they’ll remain at that position. However, if the No. 9 team wins, they’ll play each other one more time in a winner take all game. So in order for the No. 9 to leapfrog the No. 8, they must win twice in a row.
The East’s fight for the final playoff spot is rather simple, as the Orlando Magic hold a 5.5-game lead that should remain safe. The West is where it’s interesting, as the Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings and Spurs are all 3.5 or four games back of the Memphis Grizzlies, meaning any one of them could get involved in a play-in tournament.