Get in there! Ater what seems like a lifetime the good news finally came: we will soon have NBA basketball again.
On Thursday afternoon we got the announcement that a plan for the NBA to resume had been passed by the board of governors. The vote was by a majority of 29-1, with Portland voting against the plan as they preferred other options.
THE IMPORTANT DATES
The plan included teams, dates, location & format but as of yet no schedule. Let’s look at what we now know.
Training camps begin June 30th
Teams travel to Orlando July 7th
The season resumes on July 31st
The 2020 NBA Draft Lottery August 25th
NBA Finals end no later than October 12th
The 2020 NBA Draft takes place on October 15th
Free agency commences on October 18th
2020-21 season training camps begin November 10th
2020-21 NBA regular season likely begins on December 1st 2020
Some of these dates are said to be targets & not set in stone.
22 teams have been invited to play out the 2019-20 season in the ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World, Orlando.
There are 9 teams from the Eastern Conference & 13 from the West. These comprise the 8 teams within the playoff seeding & teams within 6 games of the 8th seed.
Eastern Conference – Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic & Washington Wizards
Western Conference – 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 & Phoenix Suns.
8 REGULAR SEASON FIXTURES
Each returning team current standing & record remain. However each returning team is to play 8 games for seeding selected from its remaining regular-season matchups. At the conclusion of those games, the 7 teams in each conference will automatically qualify for the playoffs. This is to be based on the best combined record across the regular-season games & seeding games.
If the team in the 8th seed spot in its conference is more than 4 games ahead of the team 9th in the same conference, then the team in 8th earn that playoff seeding.
However, the format has changed if the gap is 4 games or fewer between 8th & 9th in each conference. Now, stay with me here as this may get wordy! If the team with the 8th best combined record in its conference (Team A) is 4 games or fewer ahead of the team with the 9th best combined record in the same conference (Team B.), then Teams A and B would compete in a play-in tournament to determine the 8th playoff seed. To earn the 8th playoff seed, Team A would need to defeat Team B once and Team B would need to defeat Team A twice.
The 2019-20 season will then conclude with a traditional playoff format with a best of seven series in the first round, conference semifinals, conference finals and the NBA Finals.
The 14 NBA Lottery teams will be the 8 teams that do not participate in the restart & those 6 teams who participate in the restart but do not qualify for the playoffs. These teams are seeded in the lottery & assigned odds based on their records through games of March 11. This is the point when the NBA was suspended for the COVID-19 pandemic & will not include the 8 games from the restart.
The 16 playoff teams would draft in inverse order of their combined records across regular-season games the 8 seeding games.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THE MAGIC?
Before the hiatus the Magic sat in 8th in the Eastern Conference with a 30-35 record. Brooklyn were 7th with a 30-34 record & had 2 fixtures remaining against the Magic. Washington were all but eliminated from the race with a 24-40 record, having been swept 4-0 by Orlando.
Taking the 7th seed spot was a very real possibility as our remaining schedule was on paper easier than that of the Nets.
We now go into a 8 game tournament against the better teams. It is important to remember how poor our record was against the .500 teams this season. That record stood at an abysmal 6 wins & 26 losses. Every team is going to be rusty after such a long lay off. Many players up to team facilities reopening hadn’t picked up a basketball for weeks due to lockdown.
We as Magic fans have to hope that we hit the ground running.
The Magic had Jonathan Isaac & Al-Farouq Aminu out for the season prior to the season halting, there is no indication at this time that anything has changed. Evan Fournier will be back from his short absence with an elbow injury.
The Nets were without Kyrie Irving & Kevin Durant. Again this appears to be the same, with both KD & Kyrie having publicly ruled themselves out of returning.
The Wizards were without John Wall, who recently declared himself 110% healthy after his surgeries on the left heel & left achilles. Don’t take that as a given he will play, having said he is still working on his rehab & to get into shape. Wall hasn’t played in the NBA since December 2018 & I question if Washington would choose to risk him.
THE POSSIBLE MATCHUPS
If as the NBA indicated the 8 seeding games are to be from a teams remaining schedule who could we play?
Of those teams invited the Magic had 10 fixtures remaining:
2 games – Brooklyn Nets, Indiana Pacers & Boston Celtics
1 game – Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans, Philadelphia 76ers & Toronto Raptors
The Nets had 12 fixtures remaining:
2 games – Los Angeles Clippers, Orlando Magic & Milwaukee Bucks
1 game – Sacramento Kings, Washington Wizards, Boston Celtics, Portland Trailblazers, Indiana Pacers & Oklahoma City Thunder
The Wizards had 16 fixtures remaining:
2 games – Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, New Orleans Pelicans & Indiana Pacers
1 game – Oklahoma City Thunder, Brooklyn Nets, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, Toronto Raptors & Houston Rockets.
As the new schedule has to balance out for each team playing 8 games there remains the possibility of facing a team that we had already completed our schedule against.
Restructuring the season for resuming play has been done in a fair manner. There was no point in for example Golden State playing out meaningless games just to complete a full season. It can be argued that the Magic are unfairly affected by the format change as we had less of the tough games remaining.
There is a counter argument I’d offer here though, being that our destiny still remains in our hands. If we can’t secure a playoff spot from this position do we honestly deserve one? The Magic are 6 wins ahead of Washington as we enter this new phase. They are not going to face anyone easy either so the playing field is very level. If by the close of the 8 games we remain in 8th Washington will to have won 2 more games than us to force the play-in matchup. They then have to beat us twice, the Magic only need a single win.
If we make the playoffs we will be conditioned to playing the tough games against the best teams. We already know we likely face Milwaukee if we are 8th, but 7th remains tantalisingly close. Reach the 7th seed then a return series against Toronto is most likely but don’t discount Boston or Miami from making a push.
I think we are guaranteed an exciting few weeks of basketball from Disney World & it will be fascinating to see how far the Magic can go.