The NBA has yet to officially announce a plan to resume play but the most likely scenario seems to be finishing the 2019-2020 season at Disney World in Orlando beginning sometime in July, which actually makes a ton of sense. With a number of private housing and athletic facilities available, it will be a lot easier to maintain the safety guidelines that are concerning many as the league tries to figure out how to come back following the COVID-19 outbreak.
Once it’s figured out exactly where to finish the season, the next question becomes exactly how many teams will come back to play. Before the shutdown in March, each team had somewhere in the range of 16 to 19 games to complete before the NBA playoffs began. What seems to be most likely is to bring in only the 16 teams for the postseason and there has been a lot of chatter in the past few days of taking the conference factor out of it and just going with a 1-16 seeding format.
Luckily, the 16 teams with the best records right now are split right down the middle, eight from the East, and eight from the West. So neither conference would feel slighted. The biggest thing would be getting approval from the Eastern Conference owners, who have long opposed this plan (a plan NBA commissioner Adam Silver loves and has been wanting to do for years) due to travel and wanting an easier path to the NBA Finals. Five owners from the East would need to approve this plan but if only playoff teams return, the owners left out wouldn’t have anything to lose and would be inclined to support anything that draws revenue.
A full plan is expected before this weekend but until then, let’s take a look at what the NBA playoffs would look like with 1-16 seeding.
(1)Milwaukee Bucks vs. (16)Orlando Magic
The Milwaukee Bucks (53-12) and the Orlando Magic (30-35) would be the 1 vs. 16 matchup but this really wouldn’t be much of a matchup at all. Giannis Antetokounmpo & Co. had lost three straight before the season shut down but they’d have no problem with the Magic in this first-round series, as evidenced by the fact they’ve beaten Orlando in all four games between the two teams this season, winning by an average of 17 points.
(8)Miami Heat vs. (9)Oklahoma City Thunder
The Miami Heat (41-24) and Oklahoma City Thunder (40-24) played just one time this season, with the Heat picking up the 115-108 win on January 17. However, overall, the Heat have struggled against the Western Conference, winning just 13 of 27 games, while OKC has gone 15-9 against the East. This would likely be one of the most competitive series in the first round as neither team holds a clear advantage.
(4)Los Angeles Clippers vs. (13)Dallas Mavericks
Kawhi Leonard and the LA Clippers (44-20) versus Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks (40-27) in the first round? Yes, please. Apparently, these two teams were destined to meet in the opening round of the NBA playoffs as this would have been the 2 vs. 7 matchup in the Western Conference playoffs under normal circumstances anyway. The Clips won both regular-season games.
(5)Boston Celtics vs. (12)Philadelphia 76ers
The Boston Celtics (43-21) and Philadelphia 76ers (39-26) have a storied past with one another, especially in the NBA playoffs, but this 5 vs. 12 battle, which would also have been the 3 vs. 6 matchup in the East, is a bit misleading. Despite having the better record, albeit by only a few games, the Celtics have struggled against Philly this season, losing three of four.
(3)Toronto Raptors vs. (14)Memphis Grizzlies
The defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors (46-18) should have no problem with the Memphis Grizzlies (32-33) in the first round of the NBA playoffs, despite there being nothing to go off of from the current season as the two never met. They were scheduled for a home-and-home on March 28 and March 30 before the season shut down. But the Raptors have the clear advantage here.
(6)Denver Nuggets vs. (11)Indiana Pacers
While certainly not the sexiest first-round matchup, the Denver Nuggets (43-22) and Indiana Pacers (39-26) could have one of the best opening-round series of these NBA playoffs. The teams split their two games this season, each winning on the other’s home floor, so putting them on a neutral court would be very entertaining.
(7)Utah Jazz vs. (10)Houston Rockets
A lot of eyes would be on the Utah Jazz (41-23) in this first-round matchup with the Houston Rockets (40-24). Normally, James Harden and Russell Westbrook might dominate the headlines here but so many people will be wondering how Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell will be getting along following the COVID-19 drama surrounding the team. The Rockets won two of the three regular-season games.
(2)Los Angeles Lakers vs. (15)Brooklyn Nets
If the rosters were at full capacity, a series between the Los Angeles Lakers (49-14) and Brooklyn Nets (30-34) would be the most highly-anticipated matchup of the NBA playoffs. But with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving out, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and the Lakers likely win this series in a walk, although the Nets did edge the LA by two just before the league shut down.
*All game info courtesy of Basketball-Reference