The 2019-20 NBA season went on hiatus on March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
On June 4, the NBA’s Board of Governors approved a competitive format to restart the 2019-20 season with 22 teams returning to play and a tentative start date of July 31. The Board’s approval is the first formal step among many required to resume the season and the NBA is working to finalize a comprehensive season restart plan with the National Basketball Players Association.
The 2019-20 restart is contingent on an agreement with The Walt Disney Company to use Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Fla., as a single site for a campus for all games, practices and housing for the remainder of the season.
In anticipation of the return of the NBA, here are some common questions and answers about the restart of the 2019-20 season. Again, it’s important to note that all of these dates are tentative.
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> When does the season restart? Who’s playing? Who’s not?
> How are teams handling testing for COVID-19?
> What are the “seeding games” and what are they used for?
> How does this play-in tournament work?
> Is the playoff format going to change?
> When will the Draft lottery and Draft take place?
> When will the 2020-21 season begin?
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July 31 is the tentative date. The NBA Finals would end no later than Oct. 12.
Q: Which teams will be returning?
A total of 22 teams would return to play this season.
- Milwaukee Bucks
- Toronto Raptors
- Boston Celtics
- Miami Heat
- Indiana Pacers
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Brooklyn Nets
- Orlando Magic
- Washington Wizards
- 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
This is based on the competitive format that the BOG approved. The returning teams are the 16 teams in current playoff positions and the six teams that are currently six games or fewer behind the eighth seed in their respective conferences.
Q: What are seeding games?
The eight remaining games each returning team would play before the playoffs begin. The games would be selected from a team’s remaining regular-season matchups.
Q: Where will games be played?
Games and practices would be held near Orlando as the season restart is contingent on an agreement with The Walt Disney Company to use Walt Disney World Resort. It would be a single site location, featuring a campus that would house players for the remainder of the season.
The NBA and the NBPA are working with infectious disease specialists, public health experts and government officials to establish a rigorous program to prevent and mitigate the risk related to COVID-19, including a regular testing protocol and stringent safety practices.
Q: How many total games will each team in the 22-team field have played before the playoffs begin?
It varies by team, but most of the 22 teams would play 72 or 73 games after the eight “seeding games” are added to their regular-season game total. The Dallas Mavericks would have played the most total games (75) and the San Antonio Spurs and Los Angeles Lakers would have played the least (71).
Q: How will playoff seeding work?
The seven teams in each conference with the best records (regular-season games + seeding games) would have clinched a playoff spot. The usual tie-breaker scenarios would be in place for those seeds. The eighth seed could potentially come down to a play-in tournament.
If the team with the eighth-best record in its conference is more than four games ahead of the team with the ninth-best record in the same conference, no play-in tournament would be necessary. The final playoff berth would simply go to the team with the eighth best record (regular-season games + seeding games).
But if the team with the eighth-best record in its conference is four games or fewer ahead of the team with the ninth-best record in the same conference, then we’ll have a battle for the final spot between those two teams.
The tournament would basically be a best-of-two series — where the No. 9 seed would have to win two head-to-head matchups to take over the No. 8 spot.
No. Once the 16-team playoff field is set, the NBA playoffs would proceed in a traditional conference-based format featuring the usual best-of-seven series in the first round, conference semifinals, conference finals and The Finals.
August 25. This is assuming games begin on July 31 as tentatively scheduled.
Q: How will lottery teams be determined?
The 14 lottery teams would be the eight teams that do not participate in the restart and the six teams that participate in the restart but do not qualify for the playoffs. These teams would be seeded in the lottery and assigned odds based on their records through March 11.
The 16 playoff teams would draft in inverse order of their combined records across regular-season games and seeding games.
Q: When is the NBA Draft?
October 15. This is assuming games begin on July 31 as tentatively scheduled.
The 2020-21 NBA regular season would likely begin on Dec. 1, 2020. This is also assuming games begin on July 31 as tentatively scheduled.
More tentative details, such as when training camps open and free agency begins, are forthcoming. This article will be updated accordingly.