Commissioner Adam Silver’s proposal for the resumption of the 2019-2020 NBA season has been approved by the Board of Governors. Here are some details with regard to the restart of the league starting on July 31.
- The season resumes with 22 teams playing eight “Regular Season” games for seeding purposes
- The teams included are the top eight of both conferences, plus six teams within six games of the eighth seed for both conferences
- The 22 returning teams are the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards from the Eastern Conference and the Los Angeles Lakers, LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns from the Western Conference.
- The schedule will be based from the team’s schedule after March 11, the date of the league’s suspension.
- Playoff format has not changed (best-of-seven series, 2-2-1-1-1 gam breakdown)
- In the event that the ninth seed is four games or less behind the eighth-seed, a play-in tournament between the two teams will decide the final playoff team.
The eight seeding games are meant to be a tune-up for the players, since they will be coming off nearly five months of no organized play at all. For some teams, however, they cannot afford to take it easy and relax in those games. Here are the teams with the most at stake in the Regular Season seeding games.
The Sixers have had a weird season so far.
Despite losing both Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick in free agency, Philly was still poised to be a title contender in the offseason. They added Al Horford and Josh Richardson in an effort to mitigate the effects of losing two of their biggest contributors in their last Playoff run. Furkan Korkmaz’s and Matisse Thybulle’s emergence as a deadly spot-up threat and lockdown defender, respectively, has also been very helpful to their goal of contending as well. The general vibe around the team was that it was championship-or-bust this season.
Somehow though, they’ve regressed from the progress they made last season. The absence of Butler’s playmaking and Redick’s outside shooting was severely underrated. To make matters worse, Horford hasn’t exactly fit in with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons the way fans hoped he would. They are currently sixth in the East right, which is supremely disappointing for a team that lost to the eventual champions on a four-bounce buzzer-beater in the playoffs.
Embiid and the rest of the Sixers cannot go lower than where they’re placed now, but they need to get their shit together before the playoffs start or their whole season goes down the drain. The seeding games are the best chance they have to do that. Maybe after the long layoff, Simmons has actually found the confidence to launch from beyond the arc.
Key Game: vs. Toronto
This game will be the litmus test for Philly’s championship hopes. If the Sixers can’t beat the team that eliminated them last season, it’s difficult to imagine them going all the way.
The Rockets took a huge risk during the trade deadline, dealing away their starting center (Clint Capela) and taking the small-ball approach to a whole new level, moving PJ Tucker to the full-time starting center role. In the fourteen games since the trade deadline, Houston has gone 8-6, showing consistent inconsistency in that stretch of games with wins against Boston, LA Lakers and Utah and losses against New York, Charlotte, Phoenix, and Orlando. They’re still clearly trying to figure out the new team dynamics; but during their highs, they flew higher than the moon.
Like the 76ers, the Rockets are not in immediate danger of being eliminated from the Playoffs. However, they’re definitely walking on thin ice. They can fall as far as seventh, setting them up against Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers. Their schedule isn’t going to be helping them either, as they’re facing six teams with a winning record. They won’t have much problems adapting their offense to the new members, since they still play the same style (give the ball to James Harden or Russell Westbrook and let them create for the team) they did before the trade deadline. Their defense, though, will be put to the test, as they’ll be facing different offenses with different philosophies. Houston needs to take these eight games to work on how their defense will work without a traditional center and get better positioning in the standings.
Key Matchup: vs. Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers are the team to beat in the West right now. Another decisive victory against LA could only mean good things for the Rockets’ championship aspirations.
Portland Trail Blazers
After surprising everyone with a pretty deep pPlayoff run last season, the Blazers have fallen into a rather deep funk. With Jusuf Nurki still injured, Hassan Whiteside wasn’t able to fill the void that Nurk left with the team. As a result, the team has stumbled, and other hungry teams like the Mavericks and the Grizzlies took advantage. Now, Portland sits at ninth in the West, behind Memphis. They can’t go higher than eighth at this point, and since the 2020 Draft odds are locked now, they have no incentive to tank anymore.
Because of that, the Blazers would very likely go for it in the eight-game regular season, since they themselves know that they can hang with the best. They might be the only team in this list who legitimately have the “every game is a must-win” tag apply to them, since they are a good three and a half games behind Memphis while New Orleans, San Antonio and Sacramento are right behind them. With a very difficult schedule ahead of them, it’s not going to be an easy task, but Damian Lillard and the Blazers are used to being counted out at this point.
Key Game: vs. Memphis
To get the eighth seed, you must beat the eighth seed. Every game is a key game for the Blazers, but their matchup against the Grizzlies is more crucial than any other game in their schedule. The Blazers need to tie up the season series between them and the Grizz to avoid any complications in case of a play-in tournament.
When Jimmy Butler went to Miami this off-season, he likely expected it to be a bit of a project. The team before his arrival was a fringe Playoff contender that had some intriguing pieces, but with no coherent identity. But Jimmy Buckets turned out to be the perfect guy to lead a Pat Riley team (along with Bam Adebayo). Couple that with the unexpected rise of the Heat rookies like Tyler Herro, Kendrick Nunn, and Duncan Robinson, and the Miami Heat went from an “up-and-coming” team to a team that’s suddenly now here.
If the Heat want to go far this post season, they have to avoid one team: the juggernaut that is the Milwaukee Bucks. They currently sit in fourth place, which means that they would meet the Bucks as early as the second round; not exactly the best possible outcome for them. They can’t afford to lose any of the games they play, especially against the Raptors and Celtics, the second and third seed currently.
Miami has a legitimate shot at making it deep in the playoffs, and it starts with them knocking any of the two teams above them out of the top three.
Key Game: vs. Indiana
Indiana is nipping at the heels of Miami in the standings, currently only two games behind. A win against the Pacers would stomp any chance of them catching up and derailing any hope of the Heat making the top three.