When the calendar flips to June, the NBA is expected to put a more firm plan in place for a return to basketball, with teams being able to officially recall players and begin preparations for the bubble league at Disney World in Orlando.
There have been a number of options floated by league insiders as to what that will look like, from a truncated regular season for all 30 teams to get everyone to the magic 70-game number that gets the majority of local TV revenue into their pockets to simply bringing in the 16 playoff teams to limit the amount of people brought to the bubble.
The latter concept seems to be gaining steam, as ESPN’s Brian Windhorst explained on Get Up! on Monday morning, noting that not only could they go straight into the playoffs, but they also might finally use this as a testing platform for seeding the postseason without conference designation since there’s no issue of travel with everyone at one location.
“I really think there’s a good chance this is only going to be a 16-team playoff,” Windhorst said. “If that is the case, it opens up the possibility for something that Adam Silver has long wanted, which is to seed 1 through 16 in the postseason and go that route. There’s no excuse with travel or anything like that. It would have to pass an owner vote, and that means a bunch of Eastern Conference owners would have to agree to it. But if there’s a way to make this interesting and spice this up and potentially test out this theory, you’re never going to get a better opportunity if that’s the direction they go.”
It would be interesting if they went this route, and this year might be the easiest year to get everyone on board with this idea because the 16 teams would be evenly split between East and West, as Orlando edges out Portland by 1.5 games currently for that 16th seed. If they were to debut that format, you would end up with four cross conference matchups if they seed based on current standings and the bracket would look like this.
1. Milwaukee Bucks vs. 16. Orlando Magic
8. Miami Heat vs. 9. Oklahoma City Thunder
4. Los Angeles Clippers vs. 13. Dallas Mavericks
5. Boston Celtics vs. 12. Philadelphia 76ers
2. Los Angeles Lakers vs. 15. Brooklyn Nets
7. Utah Jazz vs. 10. Houston Rockets
3. Toronto Raptors vs. 14. Memphis Grizzlies
6. Denver Nuggets vs. 11. Indiana Pacers
There are certainly some intriguing matchups, particularly Heat-Thunder, and you also get some big-time in-conference battles like Utah-Houston (where Houston would likely be heavily favored with the Jazz down Bogdanovic and potentially Ingles) and Celtics-Sixers. The biggest point of issue, from an entertainment standpoint, is the Clippers and Lakers being on opposite brackets and, as such, potentially missing out on the showdown everyone was hoping to see in the Western Conference playoffs.
The league could test the new format and gauge the interest of fans and whether the teams in the league liked the shake up to determine if it’s something worth pursuing going forward, even when accounting for travel challenges.