With the 2019-20 NBA season looking like it will finally resume, commissioner Adam Silver and the rest of the league office has been devising plans to bring it back in a way that maintains competitive balance and gives borderline playoff teams a legitimate shot to get into the postseason.
Entering Thursday, the Board of Governors was expected to vote on a 22-team plan. It calls for each to play eight games to finish out the regular season, and includes a possibility for a play-in tournament if the ninth seed is four games or fewer out of the playoff picture.
It has been a tricky balancing act for league, but they did recently send out a survey to all the general managers to gather feedback on possible competitive formats to implement for the season resuming.
One of them was a group stage format similar to the World Cup and Olympics that would have several teams together, replacing the first round of the playoffs. However, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer the possible change raised some issues among team executives:
One concern raised by team executives is the possibility of a “group of death”—a term used by soccer fans to describe groups that are far stronger than others, making it unfair for the top contenders.
The NBA is working on approaches to fairly balance the groupings, such as limiting each group to only three Western Conference teams, according to multiple front office sources.
Teams like the Los Angeles Lakers would have been sorted into a top tier that would then be divided into different groupings so as to avoid the best teams from playing each other early. Nevertheless, the Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks reportedly were against this format.
The change would have been drastic when compared to the existing playoff format, but there were some who believed Silver had long sought to innovate. After all, he has developed a reputation for being forward-thinking.
But Silver is also a commissioner who listens to his game’s top players and its teams. And while non-playoff teams may take issue with the expected return-to-play plan, Silver is expected to receive overall support from teams.