The NBA has explored a plethora of potential options to restart the 2019-20 season, including going straight to playoffs with the reseeding of all 16 playoff teams into one big conference-less bracket.
While it’s only one of the very many scenarios the league has spitballed in hopes to crown a champion at the end of this halted campaign, the 1-16 path is the most compact, least ambitious, and most sensible when it comes to the situation at hand — and therefore the most streamlined option the NBA has in its arsenal.
Other proposals like playing a 70- or 72-game regular season, going into a 7-12-seed playoff before the postseason, and venturing into a World Cup-style 20-game tournament before the second round of the playoffs have been knocked around in the past few days. Yet none offer the same common-sense approach as the classic but different 1-16 tournament.
Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey recently expressed his support for this format, all while seemingly taking a dig at the Utah Jazz, the team the Rockets eliminated without a problem last postseason:
I am in favor of a “Conference-less” bracket for the #NBA postseason.
This would be a HUGE advantage for the @HoustonRockets
— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) May 27, 2020
The latest reports suggest the league is not looking to bring all 30 teams to Walt Disney World to resume the season, but rather a chosen few to play for the right stakes.
The continuation of the regular season is coming across as a last-ditch effort to salvage some money lost due to not quite meeting criteria for the regional sports networks’ contracts to be fulfilled.
If the NBA is hoping to make the resumption of its season less of a money grab and more of an honest effort to crown a champion, this is the way to go. Give the 16 teams that have already put themselves in the position to make the postseason a chance to prove it against one another.
There would be eight teams in each bracket — a method already well familiar to NBA fans and easy to follow for new fans that will come to watch the action.
Unlike proposing a continuation of the regular season to serve as a Preseason 2.0 after the likely three weeks of Training Camp 2.0 that teams will likely partake in, the 1-16 format offers a simplistic yet innovative way to play out this postseason.
For the first time in NBA history, the league would get the chance to do something it has long wanted to do: place the 16 most deserving teams in action regardless of the conference they play in. While the top 16 teams this season are in fact the top eight from each conference, that hasn’t been the case in the past, resulting in some bad teams making the playoffs while better teams went home for the summer.
A neutral site in Disney World would play as the perfect canvas to make this a low-risk, high-reward experiment. The league would finally be able to gauge how this format works without worrying about the logistics of traveling from coast-to-coast to follow the same 2-2-1-1-1 format where the highest-seeded team plays Games 1, 2, 5, and 7 at its home arena.
Before any sort of competition takes place, the NBA has a responsibility to protect its players and employees if it is to restart play. Bringing in half the calvary is a no-brainer in terms to facilitate that idea. Fewer people, fewer coronavirus tests to administer, fewer chances of infection, and higher chances to properly and timely containment of the virus.
It’s really that simple.
Players have also expressed their displeasure for any format that would bring the whole NBA back in merely cosmetic (and financial) merits. Damian Lillard, the All-Star point guard of the ninth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers, vowed to be a trooper and support his team in case they were to play again, but he wouldn’t suit up unless his team had a realistic chance to crack the postseason.
That sentiment has been echoed by others in a similar position — and who can blame them?
A lot of these players are risking their health by coming to a different state, quarantining for two weeks, and resuming play for however how long. In addition, they’re also risking major injury after a long, unprecedented layoff.
This 1-16 format is the path of least resistance. It would satisfy both innovators and traditionalists, so it makes sense given the cards the league has been dealt in the wake of a worldwide pandemic.