NBA Announces Target Date and Playoff Format
Adam Silver is expected to make an announcement on Thursday regarding the NBA’s plan to resume their season this summer. Although things were recently looking grim for a possible return, it would seem that things have come a long way since. It is being widely speculated that 22 teams will be invited to Orlando, Fla., sometime in late July to put an end to what has been a rather turbulent 2019-2020 NBA season.
The league hopes to play eight regular-season games as a tune-up to determine playoff seeding, as 13 teams from the West and nine teams from the East will be featured. The current non-playoff teams who will get a shot at the postseason include Washington, Portland, New Orleans, Phoenix, San Antonio, and Sacramento.
The NBA announces a plan on retaining the original conference playoff format that has been used in years past, as it was being reported a few weeks prior that the league was potentially considering a traditional 1-16 seeding, along with a variety of other out-of-the-box formats. This extended lay-off will impact teams in different ways, and it will be wildly interesting to see how the presumptive favorites fare in the early going.
There are two teams in particular who will likely experience very different paths, and I outline why in the column below.
Trending Up: Milwaukee Bucks
The odds-on Eastern Conference favorite, the Bucks were breezing through this year’s regular season. At 53-12, they boasted the NBA’s best record after being humbled in last year’s Conference Finals. I believe they’re well-equipped to handle this prolonged hiatus, as Giannis Antetokounmpo is on the verge of another regular-season MVP.
They have absolutely zero chemistry concerns — which is crucial after such a long time off. Returning mainly the same cast of characters as last year, Giannis and Khris Middleton have thrived in Milwaukee as the go-to-guys — a la Batman and Robin.
Moreover, the Bucks possess an array of solid role players who play within themselves, as Eric Bledsoe and Brook Lopez have become incredibly comfortable in Budenholzer’s system. Lastly, and most importantly, this team won’t face nearly the same pressure that stymied Giannis a year ago.
Toronto’s deafening home-court advantage often got the best of the 25-year-old in his first true postseason experience, so playing on a neutral site without fans will cater nicely to a franchise who’s rarely on center stage. I fully expect this team to come out firing when play resumes in July, and have zero doubt they will represent the East in the NBA Finals — whenever that takes place.
Trending Down: LA Clippers
The Clippers were just hitting their stride back in March, as Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were finally getting comfortable alongside each other. This team faced a plethora of injuries throughout the season that severely hindered their overall team chemistry, as Doc Rivers was constantly juggling lineups to make ends meet. George and Leonard only played a handful of games together as teammates, and the trade deadline acquisitions of Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris further muddled things for a group that already had plenty of chemistry issues.
I just don’t think this team will be able to put it all together so quickly after sitting out more than four months due to COVID-19. Although the pieces are in place for this Clippers bunch, I wouldn’t be surprised if they get bounced by a team like the Nuggets who have had much more experience playing with one another.
Wildcard Squad: Los Angeles Lakers
No one really knows what to expect from LeBron James’ Lakers this summer, as they were cruising through the Western Conference just a few, rather long, months ago. It’s hard to say whether or not this lay-off will be good for Lebron and company, as this extended absence stifled any momentum they were garnering this season. Make no mistake about it however, this is an old roster.
LeBron will be as well-rested as he’s ever been for a playoff run, and an injury-prone player like Anthony Davis will benefit tremendously from this time off. So long as their chemistry can return to form during this eight game regular-season tune-up — I fully expect to see a revamped LeBron who recognizes that this is his best chance to win a 4th title.
Question marks remain regarding the final logistics of a return to action, but Adam Silver’s highly anticipated news conference on Thursday will hopefully provide some clarity as to how the league plans on crowning a 2020 NBA champion.