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Single-site NBA playoffs, truncated finals under consideration

With it increasingly looking like there won’t be a full resumption of the 2019-2020 season, league officials are considering truncated NBA playoffs with 16 teams competing at a single site and a finals lasting five to seven games.

With a national recommendation for people to stay at home through April 30 and some states ordering more severe measures, it’s not looking like we’ll see anything close to the regular season being played. The 2020 NBA playoffs were originally scheduled to begin April 18, but even if the NBA declared the 2019-2020 regular season on today, there’s no way you’d see an April 18 launch.

Enter the idea of a 16-team playoff held at a single site, featuring best-of-three series held in a location like Las Vegas or Orlando sans fans, where hotel rooms are plentiful and cheap. The NBA holds summer-league games and G League showcase games at venues like Thomas & Mack Center and the Cox Pavilion at MGM Resorts, so there’s a familiarity with the venues. 

The goal for the NBA was to reach the 70-game level to meet contractual obligations with regional sports networks, which is why league officials are discussing a five-game end to the regular season before the playoffs. That might be a stretch: there will be the need for a mini training camp before any resumption of the season, and at least two weeks for those games. From the New York Post:

“They’re very determined to have a champion,” one industry source said.

The playoffs could be reduced to a slew of best-of-three series across the board. A single-elimination format has been all but ruled out — only under consideration as a last resort.

“Nothing is off the table,” another league official said.

With the nation in lockdown until the end of April—and, more realistically, through Memorial Day, given the current estimates of the coronavirus pandemic peaking—you’re looking at an NBA season bleeding into July at the earliest, and more likely into August and early September. That would impact the 2020-2021 season, which could be delayed until Christmas.

Photo of Thomas & Mack Center courtesy UNLV.

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