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Explaining the NBA’s Playoff Format Options

NBA playoffs

Last Friday the NBA held a Board of Governors call to discuss a survey on possible playoff formats taken by all 30 owners. This Thursday, the NBA will hold a vote between four possible scenarios for concluding the season, the playoff format options for the NBA playoffs are as follows:

16 Teams

This option would lock the current seeding into place and send the league directly into the playoffs with the top eight teams from each conference. Aside from its simplicity, the biggest benefit to this scenario is it would bring back the smallest number of teams and minimize any risk of spreading the virus. However, this format would eliminate a number of teams that could have made a run at a playoff spot had the season played out. Due to the lack of meaningful play-in games this scenario would create, this format option continues to look less likely as Thursday’s vote approaches.

20 Teams

This scenario would most likely resemble a World Cup format, seeding the top 20 teams in five tiers of four teams to be randomly drawn, resulting in one team from each tier being put into a group. Each team in every group would then play each other twice and the top two teams from every group would then go on to create the typical 16 team bracket. This gives teams that were on the bubble a chance at a playoff spot but could result in some of the top seeds from the regular season to be eliminated early in the group stage.

22 Teams

What appears to be the most likely option at this point for the NBA’s return would bring back the top 22 teams. According to reports from Shams Charania of the Athletic and ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, two scenarios have been discussed for a 22 team return. Each scenario would include some kind of play-in tournament. One scenario involves the two No. 8 seeds as well as the next six teams in a tournament to determine the No. 8 seeds. The other option would likely feature a shortened regular season followed by a play-in tournament. Whichever route the league decides to take this seems to give the most teams with a realistic shot at the playoffs a chance while still reducing the number of teams brought back.

30 Teams

The option to bring the entire league back seems to be getting less popular as time goes on. In what would likely be a 72 game regular season, teams would play between seven and 10 regular-season games to ultimately determine playoff seeding. This scenario involves bringing back all the players, creating the largest possible chance of spreading disease. It also creates meaningless games for teams with no shot at a playoff spot and gives teams on the bubble less games to make up for their deficit. Other than getting the league to its goal of 70 games to satisfy the television revenue deal, the prospect of bringing back all 30 teams seems to be the least conducive to a realistic come back to the NBA season.

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1 comment

Athletes Who Were Frozen Out by Governing Bodies and Leagues June 24, 2020 at 6:14 pm

[…] actions led to a one-game ban handed down by the powers that be at the NBA. However, it was what happened afterward that showed the league had truly closed ranks, as […]

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