Should the NBA come back to finish the 2019-2020 season, the Cleveland Cavs should only return if there’s a league-wide playoff.
A league-wide NBA playoff isn’t as outlandish of an idea as it seems. It’s also the only reason the Cleveland Cavs and the rest of the non-top 16 teams should even bother returning. There are only 17 games left in the regular season, and there’s no reason to finish them out. The teams that are already way out of it have no chance of getting back into it and will only hurt their lottery odds. The teams that are in it are pretty secure with their position.
Yet, since there are fringe teams like the Kings, Spurs, and Trailblazers you just can’t end the season and dismiss surging potential playoff teams. Hence, the all-league playoff. Some of you will cite that there is an uneven number of teams to do such a playoff. Except, that’s not true. Yes, the NCAA tournament usually goes from 32 to 16, and the NBA only has 30 teams. So how do you make that work?
Well, how about giving the conference winners byes? So the Bucks and Lakers can have a first-round bye and the other 28 teams can figure out who’s going to be moving on.
So for the conferences that means your seeds would go in descending order of record just as they would in the NBA playoffs. Still, two conferences as usual, just now instead of all seven-round series you shorten some things up. The first two rounds would be a three-game series. The third round becomes a five-game series, with the final two rounds (the championship rounds), become seven-game series.
In this scenario, the Cavs would draw the Raptors to open up the playoffs. The rest of the bracket, starting from the top and ending with the Cavs/Raptors would see the Wizard vs. the Magic, The Pacers vs. the Knicks (that worked out well), the Pistons vs. the Heat, the Celtics vs. the Hawks, the Bulls vs. the 76ers, the Nets vs. the Hornets and of course the Cavs vs. the Raptors.
For the west, you get the Blazers vs. the Grizzlies, the Thunder vs. the Spurs, the Suns vs. the Jazz, the Nuggets vs. the Timberwolves, the Kings vs the Rockets, the Mavs vs. the Pelicans, and the Warriors vs. the Clippers.
This is the fairest way to finish this season. With the three-game format, you avoid lesser teams from pulling Cinderella-like upsets and force the less-talented teams to up their game if they actually want to move on. Leave no doubt.
As for how you reseed the draft? Not hard at all – there are two ways to do it. The first involves just using the same method as always. Regardless of how far a team gets in the playoffs, if they weren’t in the top 16 to end the season, they’re still a lottery pick. Here’s the problem though, what if a team like the Pelicans makes the conference finals? Should a team like that be able to get a lottery pick despite a strong playoff performance? So then we have options two.
Instead of doing the lottery-based off of just the regular-season record, you combine the two. You re-seed the lottery and draft by the round in which teams were eliminated, and then by their record. So if both the Cavs and Mavs both get bounced in round one, because of the Cavs dismal record the Cavs get a larger amount of lottery chances than the Mavs, who had a much better record. You do this for the entire 14 teams eliminated in the first round.
Then the remaining 16 teams are re-seeded into the draft by their record and round of elimination. So if the Lakers get bounced in the second round, they can be no lower than the 22nd team in the draft. So and so on.
It’d be nearly impossible to get everyone on board for this proposal, sure, but this is the best way to get an equal and fair playoff going without having to spend any more time wasted on the regular season.