According to multiple reports, the NBA is shooting for a return to action sometime near the end of July. There are plenty of logistical challenges that still have to be ironed out before that can happen, namely settling on the location where the games will take place, as Disney World in Orlando appears to be the presumptive front-runner.
Given the unorthodox nature of it all, there’s been a lot of talk about using this opportunity to tinker with the postseason format. Seeding the playoffs 1-16 regardless of conference is an idea that’s continued to gain traction over the years, as well as a play-in style tournament that would determine the final two seeds.
Mavs owner Mark Cuban is apparently a fan of that concept, and he broke down just how that would work in a theoretically scenario that would signal a major paradigm shift in how the league approaches its postseason format. Cuban wants a completion of some regular season games, meaning all 30 teams would be involved in his return proposal, with a modified play-in tournament to follow.
Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN:
In Cuban’s proposal, the top 10 teams from both conferences would qualify for the postseason and be reseeded based on record. There would be two play-in matchups — either single games or a best-of-three series — pitting seeds 17 vs. 20 and 18 vs. 19. The winners would advance to play the 15th and 16th seeds for the final spots in the playoff bracket.
The playoffs would then proceed with best-of-seven series.
A point Cuban emphasizes is that all but two teams — the exceptions being the Minnesota Timberwolves and Golden State Warriors — would have a mathematical possibility of qualifying for the postseason under his proposal. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks, the teams at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, are four games behind the 10th-place Charlotte Hornets.
On Tuesday, Damian Lillard indicated that he won’t participate in a resumed regular season unless there is what he described as a legitimate chance for his team to make the playoffs. His Blazers are currently in the No. 9 spot in the West and 3.5 games behind the Grizzlies for the eighth and final spot.
Cuban’s format would offer them as good a chance as any, particularly since his model includes re-seeding the teams based on their record. Amid all the upheaval, there’s certainly room for some experimentation, and the league could potentially use this a beta test for systematic changes that could result in a massive overhaul to the playoff format in the future.
The NHL just announced its own expanded playoff plan, as they will look to bring the top 12 teams from each conference into a hub city, with the top four teams playing round-robin games for seeding, while the 5-12 teams battle for the chance to face them.