The suspension of the 2019-20 NBA season has lasted just over two weeks. In my opinion, it has felt like two months. But to many others, it feels like two years.
There is no sports to talk about, and we truly have no idea whether the season will restart again due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. And we have no idea if this will also affect the 2020-21 NBA season as well.
But let’s be optimists here and assume that the NBA can resume the current season at some point. If this happens, we can assume that teams will have some limited time to practice together before some regular season games, and ultimately, the playoffs.
The Washington Wizards are ninth in the Eastern Conference. If there is an 82-game regular season with a traditional playoff format, I think we can agree that they will be lottery bound. But it’s more likely than not that the regular season will be truncated, and the playoffs may be expanded to include teams like Washington. Kevin Broom recently explained how every team could make the postseason given the current situation.
If every team (or nearly every team) makes the playoffs, there is a good chance that there could be some true Cinderellas that advance further in the playoff field than they would have if the coronavirus never came. That’s because Kevin’s models, as great as they are, just cannot substitute the in-team chemistry that every team must redevelop if and when the 2019-20 NBA season begins again.
Assuming the NBA season continues, there will be many teams that figure to contend for the championship. In the Eastern Conference, the Milwaukee Bucks and the defending champion Toronto Raptors will certainly be among the favorites.
In the Western Conference, the top seven teams: the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks respectively are just 11 games apart from each other.
But we know this already based on these teams’ records and overall talent level. We, however, can’t predict how all these teams are going to play after a long layoff, especially when players won’t have many opportunities to do more than individual drills, especially in this era of social distancing we’re in. Basketball requires players to be in close proximity to one another and it’s easy for players to spread COVID-19 to one another.
Let’s say that we pass this era of social distancing and games can begin again. Players still need to get used to playing 5 on 5 again. And because of that, some of the “paper favorites” could lose in early playoff rounds to lower-seeded teams that “click” earlier.
Of course, I’m not going to predict that the Wizards will win the NBA championship or even make the Eastern Conference Finals. But if they can “hit the ground running” faster than most other teams, it’s reasonable to assume that Washington can advance further than expected in an expanded playoff field.
The remainder of the 2019-20 NBA season will be very interesting to see to say the least.