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With plenty of floating ideas, which is the best one to bring back the NBA?

Photo: Michael Lark/Dallas Sports Fanatic

With plenty of floating ideas, which is the best one to bring back the NBA?

It is finally beginning to seem like it is a matter of WHEN and HOW the NBA finishes its 2019-2020 season instead of IF it will. With the Disney World Resort near Orlando, Florida as the likely site to host all remaining games once resumed, the goal now is to figure out the best way to crown a champion for this season and of course cover the medical/safety issues to keep all players, personnel and family happy and under the proper care during their time in Orlando.

Tuesday and Wednesday have been huge days for getting the ball rolling on how this will all play out. Tons of ideas for how the league will play out its playoffs have leaked and at least several of them have been given legitimate thought and discussion by decision-makers. While there are certainly a variety of areas to consider when picking the best route, such as revenue for all 30 teams and of course respectable and fair competition layouts, fans like us here at DSF are most concerned with what would be the most entertaining for us to watch from home since we won’t see a Mavericks game at the American Airlines Center until at least next season.

Our credentialed Mavericks writers —Dylan Duell, Michael Mulford, and Reese Konkle— got together to discuss what they’ve seen thrown around as ideas for a potential return to NBA action and share their favorite possible realities for the 2020 NBA Playoffs.

Dylan: When I look at the numerous potential plans for resuming the NBA season, it seems clear that there are plans that are prioritizing money for everyone in the league and plans that are more focused on straight competition possibilities that make sense at the neutral Orlando site. As a fan of the league, I am much more drawn to the ideas of the most entertaining and interesting competitions possible. The one that stands out as that to me is the World Cup-like “Group Stage” plan that would feature 20 teams divided into four groups that would be randomly drawn and then each team would play two games against the four other teams in their group and the two teams with the best record from each group would move on to an eight team bracket doing traditional seven game series. I’m a fan of this plan for two reasons:

  • It gets rid of any need for the bad teams to come back and play games they have nothing to gain from. It also mostly solves the issue of leaving out the fringe teams that were chasing the Grizzlies for the 8th seed in the West as sexy teams like the Blazers and Pelicans would be involved and the Kings and Spurs would too.
  • There is the chance that there’s a “Group of Death” created after a random drawing and that could potentially open things up for a strong, but not necessarily elite team (maybe the Mavs, Celtics or Sixers?) to make a deeper playoff run. Purists may not love this, but I love the unexpected.

I’m not a fan of play-in tournaments for the 7th and 8th seeds for this particular season and odd set of circumstances. Really only the 8th seeds were somewhat up for grabs in both conferences and that’s even a stretch. Plus, those teams would just get creamed by the Bucks or Lakers in the first round anyway. I wouldn’t be totally against just getting the postseason going based on the standings of the league back on March 12th, Mavs facing the Clippers and all, but that’s a little boring compared to the spicy nature of the other possibilities.The only thing I’m really against is doing some sort of extension of the regular season in order to get money all figured out. I know that’s an incredibly important issue, but from a fan’s perspective, I just don’t care about that. I want entertaining basketball back.


Reese: I think I’m a supporter of any arrangement that has the Mavs avoiding the Clippers at all costs.

Kidding…kind of.

But seriously, I think I’m with you Dylan in that I love the World Cup group stage formatting of the postseason. As a permanent fixture? Maybe not, but if we’ve got all the teams in one central location, why not?

Depending on how they choose the groups, there are endless possibilities. I think it’s fair to say the NBA lacks parody, but this type of format opens the door for an NBA Cinderella story. Something rarely seen in the pro game.

It also could create juicy inter-conference matchups we don’t see very often. You could have an East powerhouse like Milwaukee matched up with either of the L.A. teams in a one game, winner-take-all setting to advance out of the group stage. Doesn’t that sound awesome?

The length of the ensuing first-round playoff series would have to be shortened for balancing purposes. For example, if a couple lower-seeded teams sneak out of the group stage, you don’t want heavyweights like the Clippers or Lakers having 7 games to put them away. It would likely need to be a best-of-five series, maybe even three. As you pointed out Dylan, some of the purists might not love that. I might even be one of them. But these are unprecedented times and as a country, we are starved for live sports. I think the NBA moving away from their traditional layout, even if only for a year, could be really fun and interesting. I’m less keen on some of the other proposals – like seeding exclusively based on record or play-in tourneys – however I’d rather that than the traditional playoff format based on conferences.

Essentially my point is this: Let’s get crazy. Adam Silver and the NBA have been looking for ways to shake up the status quo… What better time than the present?


Mulf: I think everyone can agree that no matter what happens, there will be some sort of asterisk when it comes to who eventually wins the championship, whatever format that stems from. So, if there will be an asterisk, why not change it up and try something different?

First off, I’m with you Dylan. Forget the play-in games for the lower seeded or bad teams. Unless it’s Zion and the Pelicans making a fun run at things, who cares? Let those teams stay at home with their families if they aren’t currently seeded in the playoffs. Also, the Mavericks are seven games up on the 8th seed (Grizzlies) and just 2.5 games out of the 4th seed. Not fair in the slightest to the Mavericks to have to fight their way in.

The World Cup group stage format is certainly a fun prospect which gives what would’ve been the lower-seeded teams more of a fighting chance while offering inter-conference matchups as you mentioned, Reese. It’s something completely new and truly puts a significant meaning on every single game. I’m in. Why not?

The 1-16 ranked format works, though that’d still leave the Mavs facing the Clippers, which what are the odds of that, man? And this format stands to be something that has been floated around for some time now. Adam Silver and the NBA are at the forefront of trying new things and being that we’re in a place where we haven’t been before, it’s a perfect opportunity to see what changes could be potentially made permanent for the future if all goes well during this postseason.

Whatever the league chooses, I’m sure it’ll favor making sure the league’s superstars and top teams have the best chance to advance. At the end of the day, as fun as it would be, the last thing the league wants is a true dark horse to come out of this as champions instead of the Lakers, Clippers, or Bucks.

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