Nobody knows what will become of the NBA season after its suspension due to coronavirus. When or if games will be resumed is as of yet unknown, and that presents an obvious problem. Given the league’s presumed hope of starting a new season in October as it typically does, how would the league squeeze in both the regular season and the postseason along with this suspension?
Spencer Dinwiddie has a solution: don’t. Rather than giving teams the rest of the regular season to fight for seeding, he proposed a 30-team tournament on Twitter.
The rules of Dinwiddie’s tournament are as follows:
The top four seeds (currently the Bucks, Lakers, Raptors and Clippers) get a first-round bye.The bottom four seeds (currently the Hawks, Cavaliers, Timberwolves and Warriors) would play two best-of-three series with the winners advancing to the first round. The 24 teams in that first round would play a best-of-five series. The typical playoffs would resume from there, once only 16 teams remained.
Essentially, it allows all 30 teams to advance to the postseason in some form regardless of record. There are pros and cons to this notion. The best thing it does is give teams that started slowly because of difficult schedules, most notably including the New Orleans Pelicans, to make it in even if there isn’t time for the regular season to conclude.
The obvious downside is that it essentially removes the consequences of the early season. Consider the Golden State Warriors. They currently have the NBA’s worst record. They were also without Klay Thompson for the entire season and Stephen Curry for most of it. With those two healthy, the Warriors would have been substantially better. If the season is suspended long enough, both of them very well could be healthy in time a tournament like this. It would hardly be fair to force the Bucks, with the NBA’s best record, into a potential first-round series against the fully-healthy Warriors when the original system wouldn’t even have them in the same conference.
That is another concern of any setup like this. The NBA has long resisted any setup without conferences over travel concerns. Would it be willing to relent in order to enable a tournament like this? Or would higher seeds be allowed to pick their opponents?
The concept, on paper, is interesting and solves some of the problems that the season’s suspension creates. It also presents new ones that the league would have to consider. Without knowing how long the NBA will be on hiatus, it’s impossible to know how readily nuclear options like this should be considered. It’s an interesting thought experiment, but for the moment, the NBA would surely prefer to use its typical postseason format.