NBA Announces Plan to Resume 2019-20 Season

By Nick Gallo | Broadcast Reporter & Digital Editor | mailbag@okcthunder.com

On Thursday the NBA announced that the Thunder will be one of 22 teams the league will bring to Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando to complete an abbreviated version of the 2019-20 regular season along with the 2020 playoffs, including a potential play-in round for the 8th playoff spot in each conference.

Walt Disney World Resort will form a campus-like environment where teams will hold training camps, practices and games while also living there under the guidance of infectious disease specialists, public health experts and government officials to limit the risk related to COVID-19. On Friday, the National Basketball Players Association announced approval of the resumption of the season with negotiation of details to follow.

Key Dates (tentative):
July 31st – Abbreviated resumption of the 2019-20 regular season
August 25th – NBA Draft Lottery
Oct. 12th – Final possible date for Game 7 of the NBA Finals
Oct. 15th – 2020 NBA Draft
Dec. 1st – Start of 2020-21 NBA Regular Season

So, who will be in Orlando?

In the Western Conference there will be 13 teams in Orlando, led by the eight teams currently in playoff position: the Los Angeles Lakers, LA Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Memphis Grizzlies. The Portland Trail Blazers (3.5 games back of 8th place), New Orleans Pelicans (3.5 GB), Sacramento Kings (3.5 GB), San Antonio Spurs (4 GB) and Phoenix Suns (6 GB) will also be included.

In the Eastern Conference there will be 9 teams represented – the current 8 playoff teams that include the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets and Orlando Magic, with the Washington Wizards (5.5 games back of 8th) joining as well.

What will the regular season “seeding” games look like?

The plan is for each of the 22 teams to play 8 regular season “seeding” games, which would bring the Thunder (40-24) to a total of 72 games for the year. The Thunder is currently 12 games ahead of the 9th place Portland Trail Blazers, so OKC will be guaranteed a spot in the Western Conference playoffs. As the standings sit currently, the Thunder is in 5th place in the West and would have a first-round playoff matchup with the Jazz.

The Thunder’s opponents to conclude the abbreviated regular season are still to be determined, but they will come from the pool of teams the Thunder was slated to play after March 11: Utah, Washington, Memphis, Denver, Miami, Phoenix, the LA Clippers, the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas.

What is the play-in scenario?

Once the final eight regular season games are played, if the eighth-place team in each conference leads the team in the ninth spot by more than four games, the team in eighth gets the final playoff spot. If the ninth-place team finishes within four games or fewer, the two teams would enter a play-in situation where the eighth seed would need to win once in order to advance to the playoffs while the ninth-place team would need to win two games in a row.

Due to its regular season record, the Thunder will be safe from being included in any play-in scenario.

What will the playoff format be?

The first round, conference semi-finals, conference finals and NBA Finals will all be seven-game series with the same Eastern and Western Conference separation and 1-8 and 4-5 and 2-7 and 3-6 matchups to begin the first round.

While there are just eight seeding games to determine final standings, the Thunder could finish anywhere between the 2nd seed and the 7th seed in the Western Conference standings, meaning it could technically face any of the following teams in the first round of the playoffs: Lakers, Clippers, Nuggets, Jazz, Rockets, Mavericks, Grizzlies.

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Return to okcthunder.com for more information about the Thunder’s schedule and tune-in information, as well as analysis as OKC strives to make a postseason run during an unprecedented playoffs no one will surely ever forget.

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When we last left OKC’s heroes, the Thunder had just completed a three-game sweep of an east coast road trip, taking care of business against the Detroit Pistons, mopping up the floor of Madison Square Garden with the New York Knicks then winning possibly the most exhilarating game of the 2019-20 NBA season with a furious comeback and a pair of last-second defensive stands to complete a 105-104 victory.

Then came March 11, when the entire NBA world’s attention panned to Oklahoma City as the Thunder’s game against the Utah Jazz careened to a sudden halt just seconds prior to tip-off. Utah’s Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19, and the Thunder staff calmly ushered everyone out of the building swiftly and safely.

Since Thanksgiving the Thunder piled up one of the very best records in the entire NBA (34-13) to cruise past many other playoff contenders and cement a playoff spot.

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