NBA's Return-To-Play Proposal "Reached Good Middle Ground"

Yahoo! Sports NBA analyst Keith Smith explains why the league's return-to-play format is a good compromise for all involved

After Hours With Amy Lawrence
June 04, 2020 - 8:02 am
Adam Silver NBA

USA Today Images


The NBA will reportedly approve a return-to-play proposal Thursday featuring 22 teams (13 from the Western Conference, nine from the Eastern Conference), eight regular-season games, a potential play-in tournament for the 8-seed, and, of course, playoffs.

The top eight teams in each conference will return to play, along with six teams within six games of the 8-seed: the New Orleans Pelicans, Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, Sacramento Kings, and Phoenix Suns in the West and the Washington Wizards in the East.

The league had mulled proposals involving 20 teams but will reportedly go with 22.

“I was fine with either the 20- or 22-team format,” Yahoo! Sports NBA analyst Keith Smith said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “I think they’re pretty good compromises as far as giving teams that were still in the playoff race an opportunity to make up ground while still honoring what had happened already in the regular season. So I think that they really reached good middle ground here. I liked the idea that the 8-seeds will have an advantage when it comes to potentially getting into the playoffs because those teams have to make up ground on them, plus beat them twice if they’re going to get in. 

“So I think the NBA did a good job here of taking care of all interests, as well as creating enough teams to be there to create enough regular-season games to give those teams a good warm-up for the postseason.”

The proposal, as Smith alluded to, includes a playoff wrinkle: if the 9-seed is within four games of the 8-seed when the regular season ends, those teams will square off in a play-in tournament. The 8-seed would have to beat the 9-seed once to qualify for the playoffs, while the 9-seed would have to beat the 8-seed twice.

“I could have done with just play out the eight games that are left, but that was kind of the compromise,” Smith said. “Eight games is half-ish of what teams had left, so that was the compromise. Play those eight games and then if we’re still kind of close, then we’ll do this play-in. It could create some excitement if that’s where we land.”