The NBA Will Look A Lot Different When It Returns Next Month

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Illustration: Eric Barrow

The NBA is back, kinda.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski dropped a “Woj Bomb” on Wednesday, when he broke the news that the NBA would be returning in a 22-team format to restart the season in Orlando on July 31. Enough players and members of the league’s board of governors have signed on to make this thing happen.

Sports are finally here.


But before you get too excited, temper your expectations. This is going to look unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. According to Woj, there will be 13 teams from the Western Conference and nine from the East taking part. They will all play eight regular-season games, and then there could be a possible play-in tournament between the eighth and ninth seeds to determine which team makes the playoffs.


But, then things start to get weird.

In the West, the Lakers, Clippers, Nuggets, Jazz, Thunder, Rockets and Mavericks are all locks to make the playoffs. That means that the eighth and ninth seed will come down to a fight between the Grizzlies, Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs, and Suns since none of them can catch up to the Mavericks who already have 40 wins. The Grizzlies have 32 wins and hold the eighth spot, while the Suns have 26 wins, and are the pseudo 13th seed.

Those six teams have to decide if playing eight games is really worth it, given that only one of them will make the postseason, where they will meet the No. 1 seed, which is pretty much a guaranteed first-round loss, as only five teams have pulled off an 8 over 1 upset in NBA history.

In the East, things are simpler. The only way things could change is if the Wizards, who are the current ninth seed, go 8-0 while the Nets (7) and Magic (8) only win two, which would cause a logjam at the seventh, eighth, and ninth spots.


With the way things are proposed, it won’t be surprising if the 16 teams that would make the playoffs today are the same ones that qualify in August. This means that the eight games will benefit the teams that are currently lined up to make the playoffs more, while serving as a warmup for the postseason.

The Wizards, Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs, and Suns are serving as the Washington Generals. The difference is, the Generals were always in on the joke. They signed up to be toyed with by the Harlem Globetrotters. These are pros that are risking possible injury, and franchises that could negatively affect their draft positioning.


And while the teams will be “quarantined” in their own bubble at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort and will undergo daily coronavirus testing, on Wednesday, Florida saw its largest number of new cases since mid-April.


The late-season battle for homecourt advantage we usually see is also gone, as it won’t exist. According to ESPN, there have been some ideas thrown out that would give a higher seed an advantage.


They include:

  • Higher seeds getting the ball at the start of the second, third, and fourth quarters.
  • Higher seeds getting one player that gets seven fouls instead of six.
  • Higher seeds receiving an extra coach’s challenge.
  • Higher seeds getting the opportunity to transport their own playing floor to Orlando.
  • Higher seeds getting first dibs on hotel selections.

This is definitely going to be different.

But, there is one thing that the NBA can’t plan for in this restart to the season. Given the moment, and the amount of outspoken players and coaches in the league, what will Adam Silver do if someone challenges the rule that prohibits them from kneeling during the national anthem?


Who knows?

But since rules were made to be broken, this feels like the perfect time.