The NBA, like most of the world, is on hiatus due to COVID-19. Nobody knows if the 2019-20 NBA season will resume, but as time passes it looks less and less likely. If the season doesn't resume, the NBA will need to determine how to establish the lottery order. While they could simply use the current standings and the current lottery odds, I believe the league needs to flatten those odds instead. Yes, I am a Kings fan, and this proposal directly impacts my well-being, but most importantly I’m a big believer in fairness. This would be the fair thing to do. Allow me explain.
I was listening to The Ringer NBA show with Kevin O’Connor, Chris Vernon, and Bill Simmons Wednesday morning, and according to Simmons’ league sources the most recent proposal that NBA owners are kicking around would include an 8 or 12 team playoff tournament at a bubble site like Las Vegas or Disney World. Simmons added that NBA owners are discussing a plethora of different ideas, but he would be shocked if the regular season returns in any significant way. It’s playoff tournament or bust.
This is just one of many different reports we’re hearing from NBA insiders on an almost daily basis. I’m not taking Simmons’ source as gospel, but a common theme among all the different information out there right now is this: The full remaining regular season schedule is not going to happen, and more specifically for Kings fans, the basketball team in Sacramento isn’t going to get an opportunity to finish their playoff push.
The Kings were 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies and the 8th seed in the Western Conference playoff race with 18 games to play when the NBA suspended the season. While not impossible, the likelihood of the Kings making the playoffs was fairly low. I understand that. They weren’t just competing with the Grizzlies. They also had to leapfrog the Pelicans and the Trail Blazers. It wasn’t going to be easy.
But if the regular season is over and the NBA eventually resumes with some sort of tournament among current playoff teams, they shouldn’t punish organizations like the Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, and Spurs that were still fighting for playoff position, and actively trying to make an often boring end to the regular season interesting.
If the NBA can bend the rules to allow for a shortened season and immediate playoff tournament, they can bend the rules to reward teams that were actually trying to compete. I’m not necessarily advocating for a complete lottery odd flattening because a majority of the season has already been played, but there should be some lottery odd compensation.
As the standings sit now, the Kings have a 6.2% chance of landing a top-4 pick, and a 1.3% chance of landing the #1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. I’m not going to pretend like I know the optimal solution to this problem, but I know that if the NBA does resume with current playoff teams competing in some kind of championship tournament, and non-playoff but competitive teams are left with this kind of unsatisfying conclusion to their season – that’s not right.
I understand that I’m getting pre-mad at something that hasn’t even happened yet, but can you blame me for feeling like the Kings are going to get screwed here? We’ve been expertly trained to expect the worst.
The way I see it, the NBA has three options:
1) Play the entire regular season out to fairly determine playoff seeding and lottery odds. I would consider this highly unlikely.
2) Give competing non-playoff teams an opportunity to take the 8th seed away from the Grizzlies in some kind of play-in tournament. According to various reports, this might actually happen.
3) End the regular season with the standings as-is and play a tournament among current playoff teams to determine a champion, but reward competing non-playoff teams with better lottery odds than they have right now.
Anything less would punish what I consider the most admirable NBA organizations during the final stretch of the regular season – the teams that were still fighting for something.