Windhorst: 'Good Chance' NBA Returns with 16-Team Playoff Format

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistMay 25, 2020

FILE - In this Oct. 23, 2019, file photo, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks during a news conference at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City. Something is finally clear in the uncertain NBA. Players believe they’re going to play games again this season. The obvious questions like how, where and when remain unanswered. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

While the NBA has yet to settle on a plan to resume the 2019-20 season, canceling the remainder of the regular season and skipping immediately to the 16-team playoffs appears to be gaining momentum.

ESPN's Brian Windhorst said Monday on Get Up! (1:00 mark) that there is a "good chance" the league will do a 16-team playoff, possibly reseeding without factoring in conferences: 

"I really think there's a good chance this is only going to be a 16-team playoff. If that is the case, it opens up the possibility for something that Adam Silver has long wanted, which is to seed 1 through 16 in the postseason and go that route. There's no excuse with travel or anything like that.

"It would have to pass an owner vote, and that means a bunch of Eastern Conference owners would have to agree to it. But if there's a way to make this interesting and spice this up and potentially test out this theory, you're never going to get a better opportunity if that's the direction they go."

Windhorst later added on ESPN's SportsCenter that the possibility of all 30 teams returning to action is "on the table," but the chances of that happening appear "very dim" (at 3:22 mark):

In a 16-team structure, there would be no impact in respect to how many representatives each conference would have in the playoffs if the teams were reseeded 1-16. The NBA's 16-best records are split evenly between the East and West. 

The reseeding would, however, drastically alter the matchups. Here is how a 16-team proposal—based on the teams' records at the time of the season's postponement in March—would look:

(1) Milwaukee Bucks vs. (16) Orlando Magic

(8) Miami Heat vs. (9) Oklahoma City Thunder

(4) Los Angeles Clippers vs. (13) Dallas Mavericks

(5) Boston Celtics vs. (12) Philadelphia 76ers

(3) Toronto Raptors vs. (14) Memphis Grizzlies

(6) Denver Nuggets vs. (11) Indiana Pacers

(7) Utah Jazz vs. (10) Houston Rockets

(2) Los Angeles Lakers vs. (15) Brooklyn Nets

It would be hard to see any reason for owners to object to seeding teams 1-16. There would be no extra gate receipts with every game housed in one central location without fans, and there wouldn't be any issues with travel.

It's unlikely ownership would ever approve of the elimination of conferences for playoff seeding over the long term. Owners have resisted the idea of reseeding playoff teams 1-16 or eliminating conferences over concerns with cross-country travel.