The NBA has slowly revealed how it plans to resume its 2019-20 season. In the last few days, one of those plans includes going straight to the playoffs with a conference-less 1-16 seeding for the teams which qualify for the postseason.
There are reportedly other proposals including a 70-72 game shortened regular season, a World Cup type 20-team tournament, and 7-12 seed playoff before the postseason. Among the suggestions, the 1-16 playoff seeding is the most sound not only because it is the most practical, and most sense gave the situation at hand. That said, let’s take a look at what the 1-16 conference-less playoffs would look like if that’s where the NBA is heading to:
Who Gets Who?
If we rank the teams based on the team standings when the NBA halted its season last March 12th, then this would be the pairings:
- 1 Milwaukee Bucks vs 16 Orlando Magic
- 8 Miami Heat vs 9 Oklahoma City Thunder
- 4 Los Angeles Clippers vs 13 Dallas Mavericks
- 5 Boston Celtics vs 12 Philadelphia 76ers
The other bracket would be:
- 2 Los Angeles Lakers vs 15 Brooklyn Nets
- 7 Utah Jazz vs 10 Houston Rockets
- 3 Toronto Raptors vs 14 Memphis Grizzlies
- 6 Denver Nuggets vs 11 Indiana Pacers
At first look, you would see that the Bucks and Clippers are in the same bracket. On the other hand, the Los Angeles Lakers’ highest-ranked opponent in the other bracket is the #3 Toronto Raptors and #6 Denver Nuggets. When you look at that scenario, it does appear that the Lakers have the easier route to the Finals because only one of the Raptors and Nuggets will advance to the bracket finals.
Bucks Are the Big Losers in This Format
The Milwaukee Bucks had the best record in the league when play was suspended and they will still have homecourt advantage throughout this format although that may not matter with the venue in one place and no crowds allowed in games. But those aren’t just what the Bucks will be missing.
If the NBA season had its usual East vs West playoffs, then the Bucks would have an easier route to the NBA Finals as they will face either Boston or Philly in Round 2 and most probably the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals.
On the other hand, the Lakers and Clippers will have to beat each other in the West to meet the Bucks in the NBA Finals.
Milwaukee was the best team from start to pause and they worked so hard to return to the top of the standings and get homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs. But the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus has resulted in the restriction of mass gatherings all over the world, forcing pro sports leagues and sports events all over the globe to play without an audience.
Lakers Are Big Winners in This Format
While the Milwaukee Bucks stand to lose the most from this 1-16 format, the Los Angeles Lakers are the big winners here. Under this 1-16 seeding, the Lakers will not face their cross-town rival Clippers until the NBA Finals, that is if they reach that point. The Lakers and Clippers played thrice during the 2019-20 season and the Clippers beat the Lakers twice, although it was the purple and gold that won their latest duel.
When you take a look at the Lakers’ side of the bracket, four out of their seven rivals are from the Western Conference and the Lakers had a 33-7 record against Western Conference teams during the 2019-20 season.
The Lakers have losses to the Raptors, Pacers, Grizzlies, Rockets, Nuggets, and Nets during the regular season while they have not played the Jazz yet. However, LeBron and company will take any of those teams over the Clippers.
The Lakers were in their best form of the season the week before play was suspended. Los Angeles was coming off a weekend where they beat the Bucks and Clippers in back to back games although they lost to the Nets 102-104 during their last assignment before play was paused. In a sense, the break halts the Lakers’ momentum as the team was peaking at the right time. But with LeBron and AD getting extra time to heal up their banged-up bodies, the Lakers are the big winners in this format.
Clippers and Raptors Feel Like Winners Too
The Los Angeles Clippers will be bracketed with the Milwaukee Bucks in this conference-less postseason. The Bucks beat the Clippers twice during the 2019-20 regular season but remember that this Clippers team is believed to be built for a seven-game series. Their possible match-up against Milwaukee in this conference-less scenario would be to their favor because of the playoff experience level on the Clippers’ side. And of course, Leonard stopped the Greek Freak in the 2019 Eastern Conference Finals. Despite losing to the Bucks twice during the regular season, the Clippers should have a better matchup against Milwaukee rather than their cross-town rival Lakers.
The Toronto Raptors also feel like winners here. Not only does Toronto avoid the NBA’s best regular-season team in the Bucks until the Finals but they will face either the Denver Nuggets or the Indiana Pacers in the second round. That’s much better than if they would face the Boston Celtics or the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Raptors will also like their chances against the Lakers whom they beat last November 11, 2019. While Toronto lost to the Nuggets in their only meeting during the 2019-20 regular season, they played without Serge Ibaka and FredVanVleet. On the other hand, they won their regular-season series against the Pacers 3 games to one.
When you look at this possible playoff scenario, it’s an interesting one and leaves the door open for several teams. Every team will have its own opinion on how this 1-16 playoff format is going to affect them. For the top three betting favorites to win the NBA title, the Lakers are the winners here as they will have to face only one of the Bucks and Clippers on their way to the title instead of having to meet their cross-town rivals in the Western Conference Finals right before facing the Bucks in the championship round.
Let us see how the NBA’s plan will unfold. Other options are being studied and who knows if the NBA will ultimately adopt its traditional playoff format. But if the NBA does decide to go in this direction, it’s going to be a much more exciting 2020 NBA playoffs and the possibilities here are plenty. Sure, the Lakers have the edge over the Bucks and Clippers but 13 other teams feel that a change of format increases their chances of winning the title. What do you think?