NBA 2020 return rumors: Breaking down potential competition formats

Eric Bronson-USA TODAY Sports

Out of almost nothing, the NBA has made sizable strides toward returning to play in the last week, including potentially resuming exclusively at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, FL. 

With a location possibly set, the format in which the league would return looks to be the next order of business on the NBA’s docket. 

According to a Saturday report by Shams Charania of The Athletic, the NBA sent a survey on potential competition formats to the 30 general managers. 

Some of the options are as follows:

Jumping directly into a traditional, 16-team playoff

Playoff seedings in each conference (eight teams per conference) would be decided on the standings when play was suspended on March 12:

Eastern Conference

#1 Milwaukee Bucks vs. #8 Orlando Magic

#2 Toronto Raptors vs. #7 Brooklyn Nets

#3 Boston Celtics vs. #6 Philadelphia 76ers

#4 Miami Heat vs. #5 Indiana Pacers

Western Conference

#1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #8 Memphis Grizzlies

#2 Los Angeles Clippers vs. #7 Dallas Mavericks

#3 Denver Nuggets vs. #6 Houston Rockets

#4 Utah Jazz vs. #5 Oklahoma City Thunder

Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports reported, however, that there could be a shakeup in the traditional layout in the form of conferences being disbanded and the league going with a 1-16 first-round set-up:

Potential 1-16 matchups

#1 Bucks vs. #16 Magic 

#2 Lakers vs. #15 Nets 

#3 Raptors vs. #14 Grizzlies 

#4 Clippers vs. #13 Mavericks 

#5 Celtics vs. #12 76ers 

#6 Nuggets vs. #11 Pacers 

#7 Jazz vs. #10 Rockets 

#8 Heat vs. #9 Thunder

An expanded postseason with additional teams

Rather than the traditional 16 teams making the playoffs, the NBA would expand the number of teams in the postseason — an idea the NHL and NHLPA accepted in recent days where 24-teams make the postseason with the bottom eight seeds in each conference holding play-in games to enter a more traditional playoff setting.

Resume the regular season

All 30 teams would return to action and play the final regular-season games to determine the playoff order.

Charania noted that there could also be play-in games to decide the final seeds in each conference in this format.