How the NBA Season Should Proceed

by Karthik Padmanabhan

Should the NBA go straight into the playoffs to make up for missed time?

As COVID-19 captures the attention of everyone in the world, the NBA chose to suspend its season indefinitely, leaving fans, players, and staff in a state of disarray. On April 3, ESPN reporter Brian Windhorst reported that the NBA may even be leaning towards canceling the entire season; however, there is still a possibility that the season will resume. With just around 10 games remaining for each team in the regular season, some have proposed that the season should go straight into the playoffs to make up for missed time. Despite this idea, the NBA should complete the regular season for three reasons: the Western Conference race for the 8th seed, the possible shuffling of playoff seeding due to strength of schedule, and the need for the players to get in shape for playoff basketball.

The Western Conference Race for the 8th Seed

ESPN Images

Essentially, all but one playoff spot has already been decided: the 8th seed in the Western Conference. Currently, the Memphis Grizzlies hold the 8th seed with a record of 32-33, but the Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, and San Antonio Spurs could all still qualify. All of these teams are within four games of the Memphis Grizzlies, creating an exciting race for the last spot in the playoffs. Even though the Grizzlies are in control of the 8th seed, the Pelicans have by far the easiest remaining schedule in the league and have a realistic chance to catch Memphis. It would be a shame if the NBA went straight into the playoffs, robbing not only teams that could still make the playoffs, but also an exciting end to the season from the fans.

Playoff Seeding and Strength of Schedule:

Similarly to the race for the 8th seed in the West, many of the playoff seedings changed in the final 10-12 games. For example, the teams in the 2nd through 6th seeds in the West are within four games of each other, and the Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Houston Rockets are all within a game. The final games of the regular season could dramatically shift the standings, changing matchups in the first round of the playoffs. The same idea holds for the Eastern Conference: the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers and Philadelphia 76ers are all within two games of each other. If the NBA proceeds directly into the playoffs, it would not be fair to teams that have a lighter schedule and could move up in the standings more easily.

Players Need Time to return to Playoff Level Basketball:

During the hiatus, NBA players cannot work out or play basketball with the same intensity as the regular season. Lebron James stated that the break from basketball has hurt his body since it is not functioning at the same level it was during the season. He went on to say that players will need “a week or two of training before resuming games.” There is no better way for players to get back in shape than playing in actual games against their peers at a high level before the playoffs. Giannis Antetokounmpo, the reigning MVP, has said that he does not even have access to a basketball hoop during the quarantine. The NBA cannot expect players to be ready for intense playoff basketball when they have been away from the court for weeks. The league must resume the regular season to allow players to return to game shape in order to play at a high-level for fans and organizations, but safety should and will remain the top priority amid this pandemic.