As the NBA evaluated options for its plan for a return to action, there were some questions as to whether or not commissioner Adam Silver would look to implement change with the playoffs.
Some league executives believed Silver would use this unprecedented situation to experiment with a new format. Possibilities included eliminating conferences and seeding teams Nos. 1 through 16. There also were rumblings about a ‘Group Stage’ format that is seen with the World Cup and Olympics.
After weeks of speculation, the NBA is on the verge of officially putting a plan in place for both the regular season and playoffs. Every indication is a Board of Governors vote will approve a 22-team plan that will be staged at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on the Disney World campus.
Teams will play eight regular-season games before taking part in a playoffs that is slated to feature a double-elimination format for the eighth seed and a single elimination for the ninth seed, if standings require it.
Aside from that, there aren’t expected to be any other wrinkles. According to Marc Stein of The New York Times, the NBA is expected to stay with a best-of-seven series in every round of the playoffs:
The season would then continue with its typical structure: four best-of-seven playoff rounds based on 1 to 8 seeding in the East and West, with league officials determined to make the postseason as legitimate as possible.
Despite some executives believing Silver would use this opportunity for a new playoff format, there also was a report that outlined the NBA’s preference to keep series as a best-of-seven.
Given the circumstances of having to restart the season amid a pandemic, this could also provide an interesting dynamic for teams that are able to get back into a rhythm more quickly than others. The lack of home-court advantage already levels the playing field in many ways for the lower-seeded teams making their way to Orlando.
There will be 13 teams from the Western Conference and nine Eastern Conference competing to make up the final playoff format. The No. 9 seed will need to work their way within four games of the eight seed if they hope to spur a play-in tournament for the final playoff spot in the conference.