What will the rest of the 2019-20 NBA regular season and playoffs look like? We’re tracking the big questions and updates as the league gets ready to return after beginning a suspension due to the coronavirus on March 11.
The NBA’s board of governors has approved the league’s plan for a 22-team return in Florida. The details of the health and safety protocol were released on June 16.
Stay up to date on the latest from ESPN’s insiders and analysts here.
MORE: Current NBA standings
How will this work?
ESPN’s Brian Windhorst and Tim Bontemps break down the NBA’s 100-plus page health and safety protocol here, including:
And Zach Lowe and Adrian Wojnarowski report here on the latest concerns from coaches who say that these guidelines could bar team staffers in high-risk categories from attending, potentially jeopardizing future employment opportunities.
Beginning Tuesday, the NBA will allow up to 10 coaches in facilities as players prepare for a return to play. Teams will be allowed to have four players at a team facility starting on June 23, and up to 8 players on July 1. From there, teams will leave for Orlando to participate in full training camps and scrimmages.
What’s different about this restart format?
Under the plan, 13 Western Conference teams and nine Eastern Conference teams will play eight regular-season seeding games before a possible play-in series.
The play-in tournament will include the No. 8 and No. 9 teams in a conference — if the ninth seed finishes the regular season within four games of the eighth. In that case, the No. 9 seed would need to beat the No. 8 seed twice to earn the playoff berth, while the No. 8 would need one win from the two potential games.
After that, the NBA will start its standard 16-team, four-round postseason, with the seeding games counting for playoff standings.
What happens if a player opts out of participating?
If a team determines a player is at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, he can be designated a “protected” player who does not have to report and will not lose salary. Additionally, a panel of three medical experts will review players’ medical histories and could determine if a player is high-risk. In that case, he will be “excused” and not docked salary.
However, if a player doesn’t fall into either criteria and still declines to go, he will lose a corresponding number of game checks. For example, a player making $10 million per year will lose roughly $108,000 per game missed for up to 14 games.
Meanwhile, a growing faction of NBA players remains uncertain about committing to the league’s plan.
Lakers guard Avery Bradley — a co-leader of a players coalition with Kyrie Irving — says his group is eager to hear the league office, ownership and sponsors detail a plan on issues of importance to the black community before the restart.
Bradley and the players coalition described several priorities to ESPN, including improved hiring practices for black front-office and head-coaching candidates — making it so the league’s management better reflects its composition of players; donations to organizations serving black communities; and partnerships with black-owned businesses and arena vendors.
Among concerns surrounding the league’s return to play after a three-month shutdown in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the coalition is citing: a surge in positive coronavirus cases in Florida, conditions surrounding the restrictive environment in the bubble, insurance and liabilities for players based on possible illnesses, and injuries in a truncated finish to the season.
The NBA and NBPA have been in contact with the players to get a better understanding of how they can work together to address issues and try to find common ground on getting as many players as possible to rejoin their teams, sources told ESPN.
What’s the timeline?
The NBA has instructed teams of a full restart timeline, including:
June 15: Players traveling outside the U.S. return to team markets
June 22: All other players return to team markets
June 23: Head coaches can begin working with players in voluntary workouts; initial COVID-19 testing begins; transaction window begins
June 24: Deadline for non-participating players to notify teams in order to be excused
July 1: Individual workouts begin in team markets; 37-person team travel party must be submitted to the league; substitute players eligible to be signed
July 7: Teams begin arriving in Florida
July 9-29: Training camp in Florida with three scrimmages per team
July 30: Seeding games begin (eight per team)
Aug. 17: Playoffs begin; deadline for early-entry candidates to declare for the 2020 draft
Aug. 30: Family and guests of teams may arrive
Sept. 30: Target NBA Finals start date
Oct. 16: NBA draft
Oct. 18: Start of NBA free agency
There will be 14 teams eliminated within 53 days of arriving — and only four teams will remain after 67 days. The six teams eliminated after eight regular-season games and a possible play-in tournament for the No. 8 seed would leave the bubble within 35 to 40 days. The NBA expects the conference finals will end within a maximum of 82 days.
Can teams make roster moves?
Yes, there will be a one-week transaction window — starting June 23 and ending June 30 — in which teams will be allowed to waive and sign players.
Bobby Marks and Kevin Pelton break down each team’s roster situation, how the new rules might apply and the available free agents teams can sign.
Who are the favorites for the No. 8 seeds and the title? Who are the key players to watch?
ESPN’s NBA forecast makes predictions here, and a group of NBA experts debate the players and matchups they most want to see here.
Pelton also projects the quality of play after a long layoff here.
What’s at stake in these playoffs?
Bontemps looks at nine key questions that will be answered in Orlando with predictions from NBA insiders, including:
What if this bubble plan doesn’t work?
Will the 2020 title come with an asterisk?
How much would another championship help LeBron James in the GOAT debate?
What about the draft and lottery?
The lottery is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 25, with the draft landing on Oct. 16, after the conclusion of the season.
Here’s a breakdown of all the lottery odds and details.
What’s next for the eliminated teams?
The NBA and the union are still discussing details of an offseason program of camps, scrimmages and OTAs for the eight teams left out of the restart, sources told Wojnarowski. Executives with those teams have been in regular contact with each other and league.
Bobby Marks outlines each team’s big offseason questions here.
What’s going on with the league financials?
That’s the next big question.
Silver told players that 40% of league revenue comes from money built around game nights in arenas. Without that revenue, there could be a drastic decline in the projected $115 million salary cap and $139 million luxury tax for 2020-21. The initial cap projections were based on an expected $8 billion in basketball-related income (BRI), which is now expected to decrease by at least $1 billion. BRI takes into account a wide range of revenue from gate receipts to broadcast rights, and it is split roughly evenly between teams and players.
NBA players are already having 25% of their paychecks for this season withheld to account for the loss in revenue. That money — and potentially additional pay cuts — could be returned to teams if the final restart outcome doesn’t even out the BRI split.
The league and the players’ union will need to make adjustments to the CBA and how the business of basketball operates going forward. ESPN’s Bobby Marks breaks down what those negotiations will look like here.
Editor’s note: ESPN is owned by The Walt Disney Co.