No matter what format the NBA adopts if the decision is made to resume the 2019-20 season, it won't be fair to every team that comes back.
Competitive equity is just not possible given the situation involving the COVID-19 pandemic.
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One thing for the league to consider is how can they give the top seeds the advantage they deserve for having played so well during the regular season. The Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks lead their respective conferences, but they will not enjoy the benefit of homecourt advantage if the season returns at one central location.
So, how can the league reward the higher-seeded teams? One option is allowing them to pick their playoff opponents. It would be a lot of fun and add some more drama/intensity to each series. Here's one format that NBC Sports' NBA insider Tom Haberstroh came up with in his latest column:
Reseed teams 1-through-16 (or 20 or 24) and let the higher-seeded teams (Nos. 1 through 8) choose their opponents in every round.
The No. 1 seed would choose its opponent from a pool of the bottom half of the playoff field (eight teams in a 16-team playoff or 10 if the league decides to expand to 20 teams). The No. 2 seed would choose from the remaining teams and so on. You could broadcast the selections -- call it Selection Saturday if the NCAA doesn’t have rights to that as well -- in real-time, just like the NBA did for the All-Star draft.
“I absolutely love the idea,” said one Western Conference GM. “I love it now and I loved it then in the G League.”
So, if teams could choose their opponents, who should the Boston Celtics (the No. 5 seed in a 1-16 re-seeded format) want to play in Round 1? Haberstroh went with the Dallas Mavericks.
The Celtics should be the loudest proponent of the pick-your-opponent format. If the league sticks with the traditional conference split for the playoffs, the third-seeded Celtics would, as of now, face the sixth-seeded Philadelphia 76ers. In a 1-through-16 format, as of now, the fifth-seeded Celtics would face ... the 12th-seeded Philadelphia 76ers. For a Celtics team that has lost three of the four games against Philly this season, that’d be a rough draw.
The Mavericks figure to be an easier foe than the Sixers. The Celtics have won both matchups against Dallas this season, but Luka Doncic only played in one of those tilts. Kristaps Porzingis, who was still taking occasional games off to manage his injury recovery from a torn ACL, is one of those players I worry about when it comes to the long layoff and accelerated training camp. In the end, as long as the Celtics don’t draw Philly, it should be seen as a win.
Porzingis also has struggled mightily versus the Celtics in his career. He's averaged just 14.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, while shooting a disappointing 37.1 percent from the field and 23.8 percent from 3-point range in 12 career games against Boston.
And, of course, it would be awesome to see Celtics forward Jayson Tatum and Mavericks guard Luka Doncic -- two of the best young players in basketball -- going head-to-head in the playoffs.
We still don't know what format the NBA will use if it comes back this season, but there are many different scenarios to consider, and having teams pick their postseason opponents is among the most exciting of those options.