2020 NBA Playoffs Possibilities Revealed During Coronavirus Pandemic [LOOK]

LeBron James, at left, and Anthony Davis of the Lakers

Getty LeBron James, at left, and Anthony Davis of the Lakers

No dribbling. No dunks. No dimes. The NBA has now been shutdown for three weeks and there’s no real indication of when it may return. The bulk of basketball odds and news here now centers around NBA2K tournaments. 

As coronavirus continues to rip through the United States, basketball has, rightfully, become an afterthought. But with the majority of the country under quarantine, there is ample time for afterthoughts, and many are wondering what the Association will look like when, make that if, action resumes. 

I discussed some of those options on Chicago Radio this week on the D&Davis Show:

Roughly 80% of the way through the season, there are numerous possibilities. The biggest determining factor will be the virus itself, more specifically, when it allows North American society to move about freely.

One thing that looks like a near certainty for the NBA, though, is that the regular season is over. So assume that the top-eight seeds in each conference at this moment are the only (potential) playoff teams.  


Option 1: The Virus Dies Down in Time to Conduct Normal Playoffs

GettyGiannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.

This one is a huge longshot, but if social distancing and other combative measures prove extremely effective, there is a slim possibility of a semi-normal playoffs taking place (without fans in attendance, of course). 

If no NBA players or staff are infected, air travel is possible between all the cities, and arenas are available, then perhaps the league could conduct a 16-team playoff with a couple shortened rounds and a condensed schedule.

But in order to have enough time for that, the postseason would likely have to start by August. Normally, the NBA playoffs take two months to complete. Even factoring in shortened series and a condensed schedule, it wouldn’t really be possible to complete a four-round, 16-team playoffs in less than about 40 to 45 days. 

And in order to start by August, players would need to be able to gather and get in shape a couple weeks earlier, which is mid-July. The chances of the virus abating enough by that time are not good. 

Option 2: Play the Entire Postseason in Las Vegas

GettyPaul George and Kawhi Leonard of the LA Clippers.

If the virus doesn’t allow for regular air travel, games in hard-hit areas like Los Angeles, etcetera, then there is a slim possibility that the entire playoffs will take place in Las Vegas. 


Every playoff team would move to Sin City and basically be quarantined in a basketball haven. The rounds – and possibly even field of teams – would be reduced in the name of naming a champion. 

But in order to do this, the league would first have to perform a massive amount of testing on all the players, staff, and support people required to make it work. 

Option 3: The Playoffs Are Canceled

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The doomsday scenario for the league is that the virus does not allow for any sort of completion to the 2019-20 season. 

The league will obviously do everything it can to avoid this. The economic consequences would be big, or rather, even bigger than they already have been. 

But it’s a real possibility according to people in the biz. ESPN announcer Jeff Van Gundy told the Washington Post that he believes he’s called his last game of the season. 

On Thursday’s Lowe Post podcast, both Zack Lowe and Bill Simmons stated that they believed cancelation was the most-likely outcome. 

It’s too early to tell. But fans have to recognize that the league has almost no control over it. If the virus does not abate, there will be no completion to the season, not for the NBA, not for the NHL, not for MLS.

The sports world is at the mercy of COVID-19 and not even epidemiologists can say what’s going to happen.

Fourteen individuals from seven different NBA teams tested positive for the coronavirus.

Most notably, the Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, Detroit Pistons’ Christian Wood, Brooklyn Nets forward, Kevin Durant and Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart have all gone public with testing positive for coronavirus.

“I learned a long time ago, you don’t worry about the problem,” NBA Hall of Famer, Shaquille O’Neal told me on the Scoop B Radio Podcast.

“You learn about the solution. So we all know the problem. The solution: wash your hands, try to stay in social distance, follow the rules and everything should be okay. I can’t get in panic mode. Panic mode is being down by one at the free-throw line in the championship game and everybody’s watching. Halle Berry is in the stands, Robin Givens in the stand… you worried you’re gonna miss.”