The NBA board of governors voted Thursday to approve a 22-team format and resume the 2019-20 season in Orlando. The league will next look to get approval from the Players Association on Friday in order to approve the proposal, which is widely expected to pass.
"The Board's approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. "While the COVID-19 presents formidable challenges, we are hopeful of finishing the season in a safe and responsible manner based on strict protocols now being finalized with public health officials and medical experts. We also recognize that as we prepare to resume play, our society is reeling from recent tragedies of racial violence and injustice, and we will continue to work closely with our teams and players to use our collective resources and influence to address these issues in very real and concrete ways."
We talked about the basics of the format on Wednesday here at BSJ but more specific details were revealed today by the league, along with reporting from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com. A closer look at the particulars and what they mean for both the NBA and the Celtics this summer and beyond.
1. Each of the 22 invited teams to Orlando will play eight seeding games to help determine the playoff field and seeding.
These games would kick off on July 31st in Orlando and take place over the course of roughly two weeks. These are essentially regular-season games (since they are being added to the team’s previous regular season record from before the suspension) but are being called ‘seeding’ games by the league since not all 30 teams will play them.
The eight-game schedule for each team will be selected from its originally scheduled remaining regular season matchups that are among the 22 teams in Orlando. This will hurt some teams that had a lot of lottery squads in the final 20 percent of their schedule but will still create close to a level playing field for all 22 teams over the course of a roughly 72 game regular season. Some teams will play an uneven number of games (ex: C’s play 72 games, Sixers play 73 games) but winning percentage and tiebreakers will determine the final seedings for teams that play an uneven amount of games.
2. The NBA playoff format is the same traditional format as always outside of the potential play-in tournament for the No. 8 seed in both conferences
While there was plenty of debate over reseeding 1-16 and breaking up the two conferences or even having a World Cup group stage replace the first round, the NBA kept things relatively basic when it comes to a playoff format. The top eight teams in each conference will get in and face off in a best-of-seven format in each round like usual. There will be no reseeding matchups from round-to-round either so if the No. 7 Nets upset the No. 2 Raptors in the first round, the Celtics will still get to face them in Round 2 if they win their 3/6 matchup. The only real shift here is the potential play-in tournament for the No. 8 seed in both conferences if the No. 9 seeded team in each conference is within four games of the No. 8 seed in the standings when the seeding games end.
3. The Celtics’ seeding games schedule should be one of the easier slates out of any team in the field.
The NBA has not released anything officially yet about a set schedule for the 22 teams but a review of potential opponents left among the 22 teams in Orlando signals a favorable slate for Boston. Four of those matchups (Washington x 2, Brooklyn, Portland) will be against sub .500 teams while another likely opponent in Milwaukee won’t be playing for much in the wake of seeding since they essentially have the No. 1 spot locked up in the East. The full lineup of opponents (Milwaukee, Toronto, Washington x 2, Brooklyn, Memphis, Portland, Miami) should help ensure the Celtics remain locked into the No. 3 seed barring a terrible two weeks of play (C’s hold 2.5 lead over MIA).
The bigger development here is a realistic chance for Boston to catch Toronto if they win the head-to-head matchup. The Raptors hold a three-game lead at the moment but have a far tougher schedule than Boston. Sub .500 play from them combined with a 6-2 record by the Celtics over its eight games could open the door for a more favorable first-round matchup (Brooklyn or Orlando) for the Green.
4. The NBA Lottery odds won’t be impacted by the eight seeding games played by teams that don’t end up making the playoffs
Ultimately, six of the 22 teams in the Orlando field will end up in the NBA Lottery once the seeding games are done and the playoff field is settled. To eliminate any potential incentive to tank by any of the bottom tier teams when it comes to lottery positioning, the NBA announced that the lottery odds would be determined by the current NBA standings (see below).
The only shift in these based on the upcoming play in Orlando is if one of the teams in the current projected playoff field (Memphis, Orlando, Brooklyn) get knocked out of an 8/9 playoff situation. In that case, those squads would be the No. 14 slot here and bump other teams to higher odds up until getting to the team that made the postseason. While several lower-tier teams (Phoenix, Washington, San Antonio) may be out of the running for the playoffs by the end of their eight seeding games, this announcement ensures there will be no benefit for them losing in Orlando when it comes to draft positioning.
5. All players will need to report to their teams by June 21 with an official training camp kicking off on June 30th before teams head to Orlando