With the NBA’s plan for return recently announced, one thing is clear: this year’s tournament will be one like no other. By having new protocols such as a 22-team format and an improvised 8-game regular season, much has changed from the norm.
On top of this, the NBA has also introduced new procedures to deal with potential cases of Coronavirus in the League. These procedures allow teams to sign an unlimited number of free agent players during the remainder of the season to fill in for any players who become infected.
This new rule in particular has the potential to entirely change the direction of a team in the Playoffs. If a team’s star player becomes infected, they will have to sit out a minimum of 2 weeks (which may be enough time for their team to be eliminated) and replaced by depth or a previously unsigned free agent.
Additionally, with the remainder of the season and playoffs being held in front of no crowd in Orlando, much of the magic of the postseason may be lost (pun intended). Teams that thrive in their home-court, such as the 76ers; who were 29-2 at home but 10-24 when away, may fall victim to this neutral location.
With all of these new and different procedures for the remainder of the 2020 season, there remains a greater likelihood of upsets with this new format. With no real “superteams” besides maybe the Bucks and Lakers, there isn’t too much of a skill gap between teams. Because of this, I can see lower seeded teams like the Mavericks or the Pacers making it farther than expected.
Even for teams that are expected to make it far in the playoffs, nothing is guarenteed. If Giannis, for example, falls ill with Covid-19, it becomes very possible to see the Bucks fall out of the playoffs in the second round.
With so many moving pieces for the 2020 NBA Playoffs, this year may be the year where we see a lower seeded team go all the way. Ultimately, there’s no way of telling who’s going to win the Coronavirus Cup.
Thank you for your support