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NBA return plans: What to know about 22-team format, standings for 2020 playoffs & more

During a Thursday call with commissioner Adam Silver, the league's board of governors approved a plan that will restart the 2019-20 NBA season in late July. Representatives of the National Basketball Players Association gave their approval Friday in a virtual call.

An agreement ends months of uncertainty after the league on March 11 suspended play over health and safety concerns brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The return-to-play plan will send 22 teams to Orlando, Fla., where eight "regular season" games for each of the 22 teams will determine the seeding for a complete, 16-team playoff field. The season will restart July 31, and the NBA Finals will end no later than Oct. 12.

Below is everything we know about the NBA's plans to restart:

How many NBA teams will return to play?

  • 22 total teams
  • 13 from West
  • 9 from East

A total of 22 of the NBA's 30 teams will be invited to take part in the remainder of the NBA season. In an effort to keep players contained and away from the threat of COVID-19 as much as possible, all of the games — playoffs included — will be played in Orlando at the Walt Disney World Resort.

From the league: "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. The season restart is also contingent on an agreement with The Walt Disney Company to use Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida, as a single site for a campus for all games, practices and housing for the remainder of the season."

As Wojnarowski noted during an interview with Scott Van Pelt on Tuesday night, having to stay and play out the rest of the NBA season in one place is going to be "part of the test for teams to win a championship."

Added Wojnarowski: "While there's not going to be travel, the playoffs aren't going to have that grueling nature, but there I think will be a different test of the (mentality) of the players and getting back into physical condition."

Joining the 16 teams currently in the playoffs based on NBA standings (more on those later) will be the Pelicans, Trail Blazers, Suns, Kings, Spurs and Wizards, the six teams that are currently six games or fewer behind the eighth seed in their respective conferences. That makes a total of 13 teams from the Western Conference and nine teams from the Eastern Conference. This means the seasons for the Hornets, Bulls, Knicks, Pistons, Hawks, Cavaliers, Timberwolves and Warriors have already ended.

The NBA season will restart with each of those 22 teams playing eight "regular season" games to determine playoff seeding. There also will be a play-in tournament for the No. 8 seed in either conference, but only if the No. 9 seed is fewer than four games behind in the standings. Otherwise, the No. 8 seed will be safe in the bracket.

In a play-in tournament for the No. 8 seed, the current No. 8 seed would need to defeat the No. 9 seed once, and the No. 9 seed would need to defeat the No. 8 seed two games in a row.

As for the timing, the first "regular season" games in the NBA's return will be played July 31, and Game 7 of the NBA Finals (if necessary) is scheduled for Oct. 12.

The NBA Draft (Oct. 15) and then free agency (Oct. 18) will follow the completion of the Finals. The 2020-21 NBA regular season likely will begin Dec. 1, 2020.

The 14 NBA Lottery teams will be the eight teams that do not participate in the restart of the season plus the six teams that do participate but do not make the playoffs. These teams will be seeded in the lottery and assigned odds based on their records through March 11.

 


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