NBA should experiment with new playoff format amidst coronavirus suspension

The NBA season is suspended until further notice due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. This is a perfect time to experiment with new playoff formats.

It has been an unprecedented few days for the NBA. As the world continues to take necessary precautions to contain the coronavirus (COVID-19) the association has elected to suspend their season for a minimum of 30 days according to Adrian Wojnarowski of EPSN. 

The developments in this story have come rapidly and they are sure to keep happening. Initially, the league was going to resume normally with only the teams playing in high-risk areas such as the Golden State Warriors slated to play in empty arenas.

However, once Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz tested positive for the virus, a last-second cancelation of a game marked the initiation of a league-wide halt. It is now clear that Gobert’s teammate, Donovan Mitchell, has also contracted the disease and the NBA’s only option here was to suspend the season in order to stop further spread.

With this comes a flurry of questions. How long will games be postponed? At what point will the NBA cancel the season as a whole? We will learn more as time goes on but it’s safe to say the NBA will not return until the risk of the coronavirus subsides.

Some are speculating that the league will skip straight to the playoffs once the season resumes as most teams only have around 20 games remaining in their schedule. If this is the case, it’s time for the NBA to get weird.

Earlier in the season, the NBA announced the potential for multiple changes regarding the season format. One of the most notable changes would be a single-elimination tournament to decide the final two playoff teams in each conference.

In this proposed scenario, the seven seed in each conference will face off against the eighth seed. The winner of this matchup would secure placement as the seventh seed in the upcoming postseason.

Meanwhile, the nine and 10 seeds would compete in the same fashion. Whichever team emerges from this showdown will advance to a matchup versus the loser of the seven versus eight game for the final spot in the playoffs.

If the league is seriously considering this tournament than this is the perfect time to implement it. Assuming the league skips straight to the playoffs, this gives the bottom four teams a fair chance at fighting their way into the postseason.

Currently, the matchups in each conference would look like this:

Western Conference 

Eastern Conference 

Each one of these games could be extremely exciting to watch. There is no question that a potential battle between rookie sensations Zion Williamson and Ja Morant for a playoff spot in the West would capture the attention of sports fans everywhere.

The biggest issue here is that some may think it is unfair to put these teams in jeopardy of losing the playoff berth they have already earned. The Mavericks and Nets are each more than eight games ahead of the 10 seed in their respective conferences. It would be unjust for a team to risk being robbed of the position they spent all season acquiring.

Perhaps the league could adjust their initial idea to only include the bottom three teams in each conference. The ninth seed would play the 10 seed and then the winner would compete in one final game versus the eighth seed. This would be fair as the gap between the eight and nine seed was not insurmountable heading towards the end of the season.

At the least, this would allow the NBA to test their new format and decide if it is something they want to continue doing. The coronavirus has forced us into a strange timeline and the league might as well use it to their advantage.

Next: NBA season suspended due to coronavirus

For more information about COVID-19, visit the CDC’s website or the website for your state’s Department of Health.

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