When the NBA resumes play in the 2019-20 season in Orlando, Fla., not every team will be involved. In fact, there will be more Western Conference teams than Eastern Conference teams.
According to reports, the NBA board of governors was expected to approve the league’s return-to-play proposal, which includes a 22-team format. In addition to the 16 teams currently in playoff position, the NBA included the teams within six games of the eighth seed in either conference.
That leaves the addition of the Wizards in the East, bringing the total of teams from that conference to continue the season up to nine.
The addition of Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio, and Phoenix will mean that 13 teams will be included from the Western Conference.
The conference call between commissioner Adam Silver and the board of governors was set for Thursday afternoon.
The restart plan includes an eight-game regular-season period during which the teams at the bottom of the standings can attempt to close the gap on the eighth seed. After the regular season, a play-in tournament could be held before the official start to the 16-team playoff.
In either conference, if the ninth seed is within four games of the eighth seed, the play-in tournament will hold a double-elimination format for the No. 8 seed and a single-elimination format for the No. 9 seed.
Zion’s Pelicans Among Those Vying For Playoff Spot
There were a few reasons for the NBA’s decision to include 22 total teams in its official return. While many were financial, there were also two reasons that should appeal to basketball fans.
First, the NBA wanted to ensure every team within a reasonable distance of a playoff position still had a chance to compete for that goal despite having the seasoned shortened by the coronavirus pandemic.
Second, the NBA wanted a more compelling conclusion to its season.
By giving the likes of Zion Williamson’s Pelicans and Damian Lillard’s Blazers a shot to reach the postseason, the NBA is doing just that.
In the Eastern Conference, the race is simple. Orlando currently owns the eighth seed with a record of 30-35. They sit 5.5 games ahead of the Wizards. Washington will need to climb within four games to force a play-in tournament.
In the Western Conference, the 32-33 Grizzlies own the No. 8 seed. Portland, New Orleans, and Sacramento are all 3.5 games back. The Spurs are four games back of the eighth seed, and the Suns are six games back.
With four teams already within the threshold for a play-in tournament in the Western Conference, the Grizzlies will almost certainly be forced to earn their playoff spot.
New Orleans Has Best Title Chance of Outsiders
Based on the current odds to win the NBA Finals, it may not matter whether you’re currently holding the No. 3 seed or sitting in 13th place in the Western Conference. The oddsmakers are looking at the current state of the NBA as a three-team race.
Leading that race is Milwaukee, which owns odds of +240 to win it all. They’re followed by the Lakers, at +270, and the +340 Clippers.
The only other team with odds better than +2000 is the +1200 Rockets.
Of all the teams currently without a playoff spot, the Pelicans have the best odds of winning the NBA Finals. At +12000, New Orleans owns better odds than +21000 Memphis, which is the current No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
The Magic, Suns, Kings, and Wizards all own odds of +25000 — tied for last among the 22 teams set to be included in the NBA’s conclusion to the season.