The NBA Board of Governors met recently and discussed starting the upcoming 2020-21 regular season as early as Dec. 22. This is surprising since the date comes just over two months after the Lakers and Heat played the last game of 2019-20.
A final decision is expected later this week. The December start would allow the league to have its annual Christmas Day showcase of games that has become a tradition in much the same way that the NFL has games on Thanksgiving.
Under this plan, the season would be shortened to 72 games, there would be no All-Star Weekend, the NBA draft would remain on November 18 and free agency would commence shortly after the draft.
A number of factors weigh on this potential structure for the season, but in it could shape the way the Washington Wizards are structured for the year.
John Wall’s usage may be tightly controlled
Given the shortening of the offseason and the likely compression of the NBA schedule, it will be interesting to see how the Wizards handle Wall’s playing time. He has appeared to be fully healthy in recent videos of him playing pickup basketball against NBA players, but pickup basketball isn’t the same as normal preparation for an NBA season.
A fast start to the 2020-21 season won’t give him a normal preseason. This could lead the Wizards to bring him back to full action more slowly.
This could be affected by another item the league still has to iron out: how the games will be spread out. There are reports of a two week midseason break in lieu of an All-Star weekend, as well as ending the season in time for the Summer Olympics.
Those two items together would force a compressed schedule. This could be akin to how the 2011-12 lockout-shortened season played out, which featured 66 games in a time frame similar to the proposed 2020-21 season. In that season, teams had to play back-to-back-to-back games — three games in three nights — at least once.
Given the necessity for lots of back-to-backs, back-to-back-to-backs, three games in four nights, and four games in five, it’s likely the Wizards will manage Wall’s minutes and limit the number of games he plays. All of their plans to transition him back into his normal role could get an interesting test if this league proposal happens as reported.
The Wizards’ rotations could be more veteran-oriented
With this timeline, some of the traditional offseason events won’t even happen, including the NBA’s Summer League. Many Wizards players have earned rotational roles by performing well in the Summer League, including Troy Brown Jr. and Thomas Bryant.
Without a summer league, draft picks and undrafted free agents will have fewer opportunities to prove their worth. The Wizards may be more inclined to stick with players more familiar with their system and who have enough experience to be trusted at the NBA level, especially because they are under pressure to get back in the playoff picture.
Free agency could be more conservative
In that same vein, this could also mean the Wizards look to keep veteran free agents who already are familiar with the coaching staff, the team and its playbook. Players like Shabazz Napier and, yes Ian Mahinmi could be retained if the team is looking for players who can contribute immediately.
This could also help the team keep a player like Davis Bertans, who could stay another year on a one-year deal as opposed to quickly finding a new team at what’s likely to be a reduced salary given the revenue losses due to the pandemic.
With training camp, free agency, and even pre-season games — should there be any scheduled — all within a four-week time frame, it’s a lot to expect for a new free agent to make an immediate impact. The Wizards, like many teams, could simply opt for less change to their roster.
All of these factors certainly could be brought into play by the proposed season structure. The Wizards will have to determine what their goals are for the season and make prudent decisions about navigating another non-traditional season. This should make for some interesting weeks in November and early December.