For the first time in its 73-year history, the NBA has suspended operations midseason. Due to Utah Jazz players Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell contracting coronavirus, the NBA has decided to put all games on hold until the situation can be reevaluated. This has been the biggest crisis in league history and NBA officials have important decisions to make during the coming weeks. Here are several possible options the NBA could take concerning the future of the 2019-2020 season.
A Few Weeks Delay
If all quarantine procedures go according to plan for players and essential personnel and the coronavirus stays contained to just Gobert and Mitchell NBA players could return to the court possibly by mid-April. The games would almost certainly be played without crowds and with incredibly strict press and media access if any at all. But this would still be a great scenario for the league.
If the NBA gets back on track by mid-April, teams could have seven to eight tune-up games before the playoffs in order to settle unresolved playoff seeding and lets players get back into the swing of things. The NBA playoffs would hopefully then continue as normal, still minus the crowd.
Under this strategy the NBA season would still end at the same time, meaning no changes would have to be made for the NBA offseason. Free agency, the draft and the summer league could keep their normal scheduling and the next NBA season would allow for a return to normalcy.
Push the Season Back Into The Summer
A strategy supported by Mark Cuban, the Dallas Mavericks’ billionaire owner, is pushing the season back into the summer allowing for the NBA to finish their full slate of games. Not only that, but depending on the status of Coronavirus in America and the world at large, fans could be back in attendance.
This option is the best for the NBA money-wise since it maximizes the number of games and fan participation. But it could have drastic implications on the NBA offseason. Cuban predicted that the season could go until July or even August, which runs right through the middle of free agency and the NBA draft. If the NBA decides to go this route they will have a big decision to make concerning the offseason format.
One possible solution is to move back the start of the next, and all future, NBA seasons until December. This is an idea that has already been discussed by league officials in the past. It gives the NBA less overlap with the NFL season and the playoffs would stand alone as the biggest event of the summer in sports.
If league officials believe it will be impossible to keep Coronavirus out of the NBA for the foreseeable future it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the rest of the season is abandoned in the name of player and staff safety. This would obviously be devastating not only for the players but also for the fans. Nobody would get conclusions about what has so far been one of the best and most competitive seasons in recent memory.
It’s very rare when a professional sports league completely shuts down a season without a winner. Famously the 1994 MLB season ended due to a lockout, a decision that still sours fans to this very day. This isn’t quite the same scenario but it would still be an absolutely massive disappointment and leave everybody thinking about what could have been.
No matter what officials decide to do it’s important that player and staff safety is the number one priority. And no matter what the NBA will come back better than ever, whether that be next month or next season.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference
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