Extenuating circumstances in the NBA might work in favor of the San Antonio Spurs with a 1-through-16 NBA playoff format being discussed.
Rumblings about changes to the NBA’s traditional format have emerged sporadically since the season was spontaneously suspended in mid-March. Between propositions about playoff format, schedule changes and additional rules have come and gone. For the San Antonio Spurs, the one rumor that’s could give them a fighting chance at the playoffs is a 1-through-16 playoff format that will eliminate the conferences.
NBA insider Brian Windhorst made an appearance on “Get Up” to discuss how the league plans to proceed, stating that the likelihood of a 1-through-16 playoff format with disregard for conferences is growing increasingly likely. If this is the case, then San Antonio would be just four games out of the final playoff seed, the Orlando Magic.
If the NBA proceeded with a handful of regular-season games before beginning the postseason, San Antonio would have a glimmer of hope in adding a 23rd consecutive season to their playoff streak. However, it wouldn’t be an easy process considering most players haven’t had the opportunity to prepare for those remaining games. For the Spurs, bringing back young athletes who have injury histories like Lonnie Walker IV and Dejounte Murray is a risk that the organization may not be interested in taking.
Even beyond that, the biggest roadblock in their way is the three other teams standing between them and a 30-35 record that the Magic hold right now. Assuming the NBA season resumes at a central location in Orlando, FL, the only team with something close to homecourt advantage is the Magic, further strengthening the chance that they hold onto their spot.
If (IF IF IF) the NBA went 1-16 seeds for playoffs, here are the current matchups:
1 Bucks vs 16 Magic2 Lakers vs 15 Nets3 Raptors vs 14 Grizzlies4 Clippers vs 13 Mavericks5 Celtics vs 12 76ers6 Nuggets vs 11 Pacers7 Jazz vs 10 Rockets8 Heat vs 9 Thunder
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) May 25, 2020
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Between the Spurs and Magic are the Sacramento Kings, Portland Trail Blazers and New Orleans Pelicans—three teams that seemed to be heating up before the season came to a screeching halt. All momentum is lost now and for these five teams competing for that final playoff spot, along with the 30-34 Brooklyn Nets at the East’s seventh seed, it’s a blank slate to decide who gets into the playoffs and who falls out.
The discussion regarding the hypothetical regular-season schedule in this scenario is one that is going to be interesting to see play out. Most teams have played roughly 65 games, give or take, and getting everyone to a benchmark 70 games would be ideal for playoff purposes. However, the league could opt to have these competing teams between 7-12 in each conference play games against each other to make sure the best groups move on to the playoff picture.
Whichever way the league decides to proceed with things, the Spurs might have a chance to crawl out of the hole they dug for themselves through their first 63 games of the regular season. Considering how difficult their schedule was throughout the year, this part of the season slate was supposed to provide a short opportunity to re-establish themselves as a playoff team.
Instead, the most likely scenario is they get a lottery pick and their longest summer vacation since the start of the millennium.