The NBA appears closer to resuming its currently suspended 2019-20 regular season based on recent reports, but a concrete plan regarding the regular-season and playoff formats to close out the campaign are still under discussion, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski.
"In formal and informal conversations with owners, executives and players, the league is still uncertain about the regular season and playoff structure it'll use to complete the season," Wojnarowski wrote.
He also added the following regarding potential specifics discussed in a general manager's call with the league office Thursday:
"On Thursday's call, the league was vague in detailing several resumption scenarios still under consideration, including a modified 30-team regular-season schedule directly to the playoffs, pool-play rounds of a play-in tournament and play-in models with less than 30, but more than 16 teams, sources said. Several members of the league's board of governors believe that the NBA's preference isn't to bring every team to resume the season, but that remains undecided."
Per Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic, the league is looking toward finishing its season at one or two hub sites, with Orlando, Florida's Walt Disney World a "clear frontrunner." A mid-July resumption is a possibility.
As Wojnarowski noted, there are plusses and pitfalls to every plan. Bringing back all 30 NBA teams would help the league hit the 70-game mark tied to local television contracts, a point that Amick explained: "If the NBA can’t find a way to play regular-season games, sources say teams will also lose out on regional sports network revenues that require them to air at least 70 games to achieve the financial threshold that is so routinely discussed in league circles."
The league is already losing money, with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver saying in a conference call with players May 8 (h/t Wojnarowski) that 40 percent of the league's revenue comes from fan attendance.
On the flip side, some NBA teams (e.g. the 15-50 Golden State Warriors) are well out of the playoff picture, and bringing them back after a long hiatus to play meaningless games and potentially risking the safety of players doesn't seem to make much sense.
As Wojnarowski wrote, "with little chance to play more than five-to-seven regular season games, a month of preparation seems like an excessive investment for teams at the bottom of the standings."
As far as the play-in models featuring more than 16 but less than 30 teams go, teams below .500 who were well outside the playoff picture would be rewarded and given a chance to compete for an NBA title. On the brighter side, every team that would finish out the season would have a strong incentive to play the second part of the 2019-20 campaign.
The league could also go straight to the playoffs, but that would hurt teams with a fighting chance at obtaining a playoff spot, like the four Western Conference teams within four games of the Memphis Grizzlies for the eighth and final West seed.
Ultimately, no option is perfect, and as Silver told players, "This could turn out to be the single greatest challenge of all our lives." Any basketball is better than no basketball, even if the league's ultimate decision doesn't please everyone.