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What are the possible solutions for the 2019-20 NBA season in light of the coronavirus pandemic?

Options range from ending the season, resuming the season with the playoffs to playing all remaining games at a remaining date.

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New York Knicks v Washington Wizards
Rui Hachimura and the Washington Wizards could return to the court at some point, especially if the season is paused.
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

I still feel really weird over the suspension of the 2019-20 NBA season. I’m still in denial inside that the Washington Wizards aren’t playing games right now with weeks left to go. But that’s the reality we are in considering that two Utah Jazz players are diagnosed with coronavirus ... and more cases are likely to come.

Today, I heard various options the NBA could take regarding how to proceed, especially with ESPN’s “First Take” running on my television or SiriusXM NBA radio in my car. Here are the three scenarios that I have heard regarding how the NBA season could proceed.

Scenario 1: End the 2019-20 NBA season

Washington Wizards v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

In this scenario, the NBA decides not to continue any more games this season. There will be no playoffs. We’ll just wait until this June for the NBA Draft and July for free agency when things would HOPEFULLY cool down a bit.

Pros: The NBA will be able to buy time before the 2020-21 season when the league can make future plans on how teams will interact with media and fans. Arenas can make plans on new procedures, likely with “dry runs” in the summer. The NCAA has cancelled the basketball tournaments, so this wouldn’t be unprecedented.

Cons: If the coronavirus outbreak subsides in the next couple weeks, the NBA would look like it panicked. Also, finishing the season early and with no playoffs will mean a big loss of revenue. Future salary caps will likely be negatively affected before the next free agency period in July.

Is it likely? As of now, I call this the “nuclear option.” Given the NBA’s need to pay the bills, however, that’s a very tough choice to make. David Aldridge of The Athletic DC (paywall) believes the NBA needs to end the season for everyone’s safety.

I believe the NBA should end the season as well if a decision HAD to be made today, but this is the absolute last resort. The current suspension gives the league some time to ponder its options without making one in haste.

Scenario 2: End the 2019-20 NBA regular season, immediately begin the playoffs

Toronto Raptors v Washington Wizards - Game Six
If the NBA season resumes with an immediate start to the postseason, maybe the playoff field can be expanded so the Wizards can play after this suspension after all.
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Assuming that the suspension of the season is relatively short (roughly 30 days or so), play resumes with the playoffs. Seeds would be determined by current regular season record. The Wizards are 24-40, ninth in the Eastern Conference and wouldn’t make the playoffs based on its current format.

Pros: The conventional NBA calendar will not be altered, resulting in a potentially very short offseason before the fall. Also, the Olympics are in July (which is still on for now) and players want to represent their countries for this event.

Finally, who’s to say that the NBA Playoffs HAVE to be with eight teams per conference? Given the circumstances, maybe we could see ... every team get a playoff bid? Hear me out here.

If every team made the playoffs in a special tournament, it would be tiered like the WNBA playoffs where lower seeded teams play single elimination games and higher seeded teams get byes. Except in this version, EVERY team gets a playoff berth. This option also allows every team an opportunity to play at least once after this break in play.

Cons: If the playoffs start with the current format, the Wizards’ season is finished. Also, a different playoff format in the 2019-20 NBA season will make some put an asterisk on this year’s champion, especially if the Finals and semifinals were shorter series.

Is it likely? I can see the season resuming with a traditional 16-team playoff format if the suspension is just a month or so. But regardless, I think an expanded playoff tournament is worth considering in light of the circumstances.

Scenario 3: Play all remaining 2019-20 NBA regular season games and the playoffs through the summer

Las Vegas Aces v Washington Mystics - Game Two
The WNBA could start competing against the NBA for eyeballs this summer, which may or may not be a good thing for their league. That’s assuming the NBA season plays all remaining regular season and postseason games into July or even August.
Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban talked openly about this option, where the season picks up from where it stopped. If the season starts again in April, then games should go on into July ..,. or August. On top of that, future NBA seasons could start in December or so to limit competition with the NFL regular season and MLB’s postseason.

Assuming the coronavirus is brought in control relatively soon, this minimizes the economic losses teams are bound to have due to the current suspension. Players can be healed up from nagging injuries, but there will be a full season. We’ll also have a chance to see Bradley Beal continue racking up the points in a historic season.

Pros: Assuming the coronavirus is brought in control relatively soon, this minimizes the economic losses teams are bound to have due to the current suspension. Players can be healed up from nagging injuries, but there will be a full season. We’ll also have a chance to see Bradley Beal continue racking up the points in a historic season.

Cons: There are three cons with this option. First, the Olympics, assuming they go on. Will a season extension into July or August force the NBA to institute a break? After all, NBA players are allowed to play in the Olympic Tournament this July. Given the timing of the calendar this year, the NBA Playoffs could have an Olympic break to allow players to go to their national teams.

The second con is that the NBA season will overlap into the WNBA season. It is possible that NBA games could be on the same day as WNBA games in the same city, including here in Washington.

In the short term, will late season Wizards games hurt Mystics attendance even though the Mystics are defending WNBA champions and the Wizards are likely just “going through the motions” to finish their regular season? But generally, will summer NBA basketball hurt the WNBA as a whole? You can answer yes or no to both of these questions with a straight face.

The last con involves the NBA Summer League. The Vegas League in particular is a league networking event as much as it is a showcase of young talent. Can the Vegas League still go on in September or October when classes are going on at UNLV without interfering too much with their men’s and women’s basketball teams?

Is it likely? I think this is also a possible solution because NBA team owners do NOT want to lose millions of dollars of revenue, especially if the coronavirus situation improves. However, I’m skeptical this will happen because of the Olympics (again, we’re assuming the Tokyo games are still a “go”) and some owners like Ted Leonsis will voice WNBA teams’ concerns as well. That said, most NBA team owners do not also own a WNBA team like Leonsis does.

What do you think is the best solution to end the 2019-20 NBA season? Let us know in the comments below.


What would you do to resolve the 2019-20 NBA season?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    Cancel the season
    (48 votes)
  • 66%
    End regular season, begin playoffs
    (235 votes)
  • 20%
    Continue playing 82-game season & playoffs, end play in July or August
    (71 votes)
354 votes total Vote Now