The NBA is coming back, officially.
The full set of National Basketball Players Association team representatives are expected to vote on and pass the NBA’s proposal to restart the season come July 31st. The plan would see the season resume with eight “seeding games” for 22 of the NBA’s teams at Walt Disney World, before heading into a familiar 16-team, best-of-seven playoff format. If necessary, Game 7 of the NBA Finals would be on October 12.
How will the Jazz fare in the new format? Here are some aspects to consider:
How will the NBA choose each team’s opponent for the eight seeding games? Yahoo Sports! Vince Goodwill reported that each team’s next eight games would “serve as a guide.” For the Jazz, those eight games were against Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Memphis, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Lakers again, San Antonio, San Antonio again and then Dallas. One of the Jazz’s scheduled games, originally against the Minnesota Timberwolves in between the two San Antonio matchups, would be skipped over on account of Minnesota not being invited to Orlando.
But ESPN reported that the league would be a bit more flexible. The goal, Adrian Wojnarowski reported, is to match a strength of schedule that the team actually had remaining when the season ended. At that point, the Jazz had the ninth hardest schedule in the league still to come, with an average opponent winning percentage of .524.
Remember, when the season ended, the Jazz stood in fourth place in the Western Conference, three games behind the L.A. Clippers, 1.5 games behind the Denver Nuggets, one game ahead of both the Houston Rockets and the Oklahoma City Thunder, and 2.5 games ahead of the Dallas Mavericks. Of those teams, only Denver, with the third-hardest schedule in the league, had a harder schedule remaining than the Jazz did. The Rockets and the Clippers were set to face below-.500 opponents on average.
Obviously, this will have an impact on how everything goes down. The Jazz will have to stay in front of the Thunder and Rockets with only one game of advantage — with the Rockets likely to have the tiebreaker. The Jazz/Thunder tiebreaker would likely be determined by the game they play in the eight seeding games.
I also wonder if the league will look to skip back-to-backs against the same team in the remaining schedule. Quite honestly, it would be somewhat weird for the Jazz to play the Lakers in a quiet neutral site one night, and then do it all again in the same place the next night, just with different jerseys.
ESPN reported that the eight seeding games will take place over the course of 16 days, with each team playing one back-to-back in that stretch. That’s about five to six NBA games per day. The Disney World complex has three different facilities the league will use to host games.
They also reported that “There will be four hours between games on each individual court to accommodate overtimes, cleanings and warm-ups.” How late is the NBA willing to start games on the East coast in the bubble? Let’s say that it’s 10 p.m. ET, or 8 p.m. MT.
That would mean the early game would start at 4 p.m. MT, which might mean Jazz fans would have to get themselves in front of their television sets much earlier than usual. The good news is that you probably shouldn’t expect many of those — the league will probably try to get the league’s West teams on TV at as prime of a time as possible, but East vs. West games may mean some scheduling quirks.
Home court advantage
The Jazz have traditionally been able to rely on one of the NBA’s best home-court advantages, thanks to rabid fans and the second-highest altitude in the league. There’s also evidence that home-court advantage matters even more during the playoffs — worth nearly four points per game for even the average team. All of that goes away in sea-level Orlando, in front of zero fans.
In a more normal set up, if the Jazz would have been able to stay in the fourth seed, it would have been the first time in twenty years the Jazz had home-court advantage in the first round. They’ll have to wait for that.
Interestingly, the NBA has considered some replacements for home-court advantage, according to ESPN’s reporting. Those include:
- The higher-seeded team being awarded the first possession of the second, third and fourth quarters, following the traditional jump ball to begin the game.
- The higher-seeded team being allowed to designate one player to be able to be whistled for seven fouls instead of six before fouling out.
- The higher-seeded team receiving an extra coach's challenge.
- The higher-seeded teams being able to transport their actual hardwood home court from their arenas to Orlando to try to preserve the feel of their home playing experience.
- An off-court feature in which playoff teams, in order of seeding 1-16, receive first choice on picking which hotel they will stay at in Disney World.
None of these rules have been agreed upon. Quite frankly, given that they would require two-thirds of teams to approve them, it’s unlikely any pass, because there are only eight teams who would have home court advantage in the first round. But it’s fun to imagine the rules being tweaked, making real life feel like a video game.
The Jazz have clinched the playoffs, will keep their pick
Sure, it didn’t come in traditional fashion, but thanks to enjoying a large lead on eight-seed Memphis, the Jazz are assured of making the playoffs for the fourth consecutive time under head coach Quin Snyder. Overall, they have made the playoffs 29 times since 1983-84, missing it nine times — all in this millennium.
Making the playoffs also ensures the Jazz will have a first-round draft pick in this year’s NBA draft, which now will take place on Oct. 15. You see, if the Jazz had missed the playoffs this season, they would have given their pick to the Memphis Grizzlies as part of the Mike Conley deal.
That almost certainly means the Grizzlies will get the Jazz’s first-round selection in the 2022 NBA draft. Only if the pick were to be from between first and sixth — the Jazz would really have to have a terrible season for that to happen — would the Jazz keep the pick.