SALT LAKE CITY — As the NBA continues to work through the details of resuming the 2019-20 season, there are still many questions that remain, many of which the answers will directly impact the Utah Jazz.
While the broad strokes of the 22-team format set to take place in Orlando have been painted, it is important to remember that everything is tentative and things can still change.
For example, the currently proposed format has each team in Orlando playing eight regular-season games. With the Jazz ahead of the current Western Conference eighth-seed Memphis Grizzlies by 9.5 games, that means the Jazz are ensured a playoff spot. But, if the league decides to open things up a little and give each team 10 games in Orlando prior to the playoffs starting, the Jazz would no longer be statistically guaranteed a playoff berth.
This is just as an example. There’s no reporting to that suggest the NBA is planning to add games to the proposed format, but there is absolutely nothing set in stone yet. While the NBA board of governors voted to approve the 22-team format, the National Basketball Players Association made a point of releasing a statement essentially saying that they agreed to the format in principle and that officially signing off was contingent on a mountain of details still to be decided.
One of the things team general managers were overwhelmingly in favor of when surveyed by the league office in late May was expanding rosters for the playoffs.
In a normal NBA postseason, teams are allowed to have 15 players on their roster (13 active per game), players waived after March 1 are not postseason eligible, and two-way players are not allowed to play in the playoffs unless their contract is converted to a standard NBA deal, which must be done before the playoffs begin.
There are multiple teams, even those who are not going to be in the 22-team field, that will be interested to know how the league is going to navigate the many contract issues that will arise because of the shift in dates, including signing players before the playoffs begin for playing or purely for cap-related reasons.
For the Jazz, considering the loss of Bojan Bogdanovic this season, the details the league comes up with in order to address postseason rosters is going to be very valuable.
The door could be opened for the Jazz to have two-way players Jarrell Brantley and Justin Wright-Foreman available during the playoffs, or have the ability to sign an additional player who is currently not on an NBA roster.
For every team, including the Jazz, the makeup of the remaining regular-season games (how fair or balanced the schedule is), the way the NBA handles players who may not feel comfortable resuming the season, and the protocol for positive coronavirus tests will be some of the most important decisions made over the next few weeks.
The league has already indicated, according to multiple reports, that it plans on continuing play if a singular player tests positive for COVID-19, but has yet to release anything concrete on what would happen if multiple players, coaches, staffers, or anyone else involved test positive. It’s no secret that any kind of outbreak within the NBA bubble in Orlando could ruin the entirety of the NBA’s resumption plans.
The NBA’s most pressing decisions relate to the plan to resume the season in Orlando, but what would happen if the Jazz were to lose their first-round playoff series and be sent home early on in the process.
In that case, the Jazz would join the other eight teams not invited to Orlando and the other first-round losing teams that are not going to play competitively until at least December, in a sort of extended NBA limbo.
By the end of the first round of the playoffs, based on the NBA’s current schedule plan, there are a number of teams that will have played between zero and, at most, 15 games between March 11 and Dec. 1. The NBA is going to have to figure out a way to keep the players active, healthy, and engaged even if they aren’t in Orlando.
The league is rumored to be working on some regional tournaments or exhibition games that could take place between now and the beginning of the 2020-21 regular season, but again, nothing has been decided.
While news of the NBA’s board of governors and NBPA agreeing to a format to resume the season is a step in the direction of bringing basketball back, there are hundreds, if not more, logistical and nuanced decisions that still have to be made in order for this all to not just work well, but work for every team in the league.