Report: Non-Contending NBA Teams Want Draft, Free Agency Focus over RestartMay 21, 2020
The NBA is considering resuming its 2019-20 season, which is currently suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, in Orlando, Florida, in mid-July, per Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic.
That resumption of play may include teams well outside the playoff picture with just one month of regular-season games left on the slate. But per Marc Berman of the New York Post, "Sources have indicated that teams out of the mix just want to prepare for next season and focus on the draft and free agency."
There's little to nothing for teams far outside the top eight playoff seeds in each conference to play for at this juncture.
Of note, Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said on a video conference call (h/t Laurence Miedema of the Mercury News) that his 15-50 team is in "offseason mode."
"It feels like the offseason. And in fact we had a Zoom call, (general manager) Bob Myers and I got on a Zoom with our players, our whole roster last week. And it was just a chance to check in, but it was also a chance for Bob to update the players on his contact with the league and the latest news, but it also kind of felt like our annual team exit meeting.
"Our coaching staff and I have been undergoing staff evaluations, offseason plans, so we are absolutely in offseason mode right now."
Per Berman, the league has considered playing a truncated finish to the regular season involving all 30 teams, as well as going straight to the playoffs. A middle ground would include a play-in tournament to determine the final playoff seeds, with ninth through 12th place in each conference added to the picture.
The Warriors are the only team that has been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, although sizable gaps exist between the top eight in each conference versus the rest of the league.
In the East, the eighth-place Orlando Magic are 5.5 games ahead of the ninth-place Washington Wizards. In the West, the eighth-place Memphis Grizzlies hold a 3.5-game edge over a trio of teams tied for ninth in the Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings. The San Antonio Spurs are a half-game behind that group.
But the Western Conference playoff picture makes the case for a play-in tournament or regular-season resumption. Four teams are within four games of the Grizzlies, and they include some of the game's biggest stars in the Pels' Zion Williamson and the Blazers' Damian Lillard. Giving those teams a chance to put themselves in playoff position would be ideal if it's logistically feasible.
And then there are teams that are playing out the string, even if they can still technically make the playoffs. Per PlayoffStatus.com, the Eastern Conference teams currently outside the top eight each have less than a 1 percent chance to make the postseason.
With that in mind, the incentives for them to play in Orlando would seem to be bridging the gap between the end of the first portion of the NBA season (March 11) and whenever the 2020-21 season picks up (potentially in December if the 2019-20 campaign runs into the late summer or early fall).
Those teams could also try to find their rhythm and gain some momentum going into the offseason, or they could give some untested players a crack at the rotation.
Still, it's understandable as to why non-contending teams may be looking forward to next year already given the long hiatus and need to finish out the season at a neutral site away from family.