As reported by The Athletic and ESPN, the NBA have officially agreed a 22-team return to the 2019-20 season after a Board of Governors meeting – with both the draft lottery and draft itself scheduled for August and October respectively.
The league’s latest plans are centred on ‘feedback, collaborative discussions and input from constituents’ leaguewide, as per The Athletic’s exclusive report today.
What are these plans?
As I reported last month, the NBA are planning to resume action at Orlando’s Disney World. This proposed 22-team format would include the 16 teams across both conferences currently in playoff spots, as well as six additional teams – five from the West and one in the East.
New Orleans, Portland, San Antonio, Sacramento, Phoenix and Washington are those extra teams involved. After a set of eight regular-season games, a play-in tournament would be included to help decide the eighth seed.
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, the two teams enter a tournament: double-elimination for the eighth seed and single-elimination for ninth.
It also means that Trail Blazers’ All-Star guard Damian Lillard will get what he wants, a clear opportunity to challenge for a postseason run. They were 29-37 before the enforced hiatus in March, with 16 games remaining.
League commissioner Adam Silver informed the Board of Governors last Friday they are targeting a July 31 resumption of the season. They discussed four different competition scenarios with owners, though two particular options were not well-received.
The 16-team format doesn’t provide teams currently out of the playoffs an opportunity to make a postseason bid, nor accomplish the financial upside of the other formats. The 30-team model, meanwhile, would bring several underachieving teams into the bubble environment – not seen as a helpful compromise.
That’s especially considering the NBA’s stringent rules on medical safety and health priority, where the spread of coronavirus remains a serious concern.
Hornets owner Michael Jordan was outspoken on Friday, stressing issues surrounding player safety – players on struggling teams returning for meaningless games after a four-plus month hiatus. The Hawks and Bulls ownership groups said on the call they wanted to return, though but several players and staffers in both organisations prefer not to.
Among several other medical protocols expected to be proposed in the coming days, according to sources:
– Players unable to shower in the arena, would need to do so in their respective hotels
– Bench players would sit in spread-out rows, inactive players would sit in the stands
– No guests until the playoffs
Coronavirus tests, regulations and what’s next
Teams will begin training at team sites in July and advance to full training camps in Orlando later next month, according to reports.
The NBA and National Basketball Players Association are negotiating details of the return to play’s safety protocols and competition. They plan to have uniform, daily testing for the coronavirus within the Disney campus environment.
If a player tests positive for the virus, that player would be removed from the team to quarantine and treat individually – and continue to test other team members as they play on.
Employees at the Disney resort will have to maintain similar protocols. For example, no staff will be allowed into players’ rooms, and hallways will be carefully managed to avoid crowding, sources told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.
Update: Draft lottery and NBA draft dates confirmed
As this developing story continues to advance and further details filter out, rescheduled dates surrounding the draft lottery and draft itself have emerged.
According to Woj, the league has set the lottery for August 25 and draft for Oct. 15.
It likely means the eight teams not involved in the season’s resumption will receive improved odds of earning a top pick.
This is because they will not have completed the same amount of games (consequently, impacting win % and record) compared to others who fall out of postseason contention.
From the league’s 30 teams, Portland were the only team who voted against the NBA’s proposed return-to-play format – they preferred 20 teams, as opposed to 22.
Elsewhere, the league informed the Board of Governors of their schedule going forward – which are subject to tweaks between now and dates stated:
Given a four-month hiatus, it’s understandable the NBA want to begin the 2020-21 season in early December – which would likely mean players are not affected by next year’s rescheduled Olympic Games and can still compete next summer, if selected.
Information: The Athletic’s Shams Charania, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski