(Image – Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports)
Earlier today, the NBA Board of Governors approved a plan to send twenty-two NBA teams to Disney World, in Orlando, to play eight regular season games followed by the NBA Playoffs between the sixteen teams that qualify.
The top eight teams from each conference (those currently in position to make the playoffs) are all making the trip, along with the six teams within six games of eighth place in their respective conference.
Among those twenty-two teams, the Indiana Pacers, Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, and Sacramento Kings all boast former Virginia basketball players on their rosters. As such, Malcolm Brogdon, Joe Harris, Mike Scott, Ty Jerome, and perhaps even Kyle Guy will be competing in Orlando on July 31st when the NBA is set to return to play.
Each team’s schedule for their eight-game conclusion to the regular season still appears to be up in the air. Originally, the NBA was planning on having each team continue to play their remaining schedule, and just bypass games against teams that aren’t participating in Orlando.
The issue that arises is if one team is scheduled to play another team that already has a completed their eight game schedule. For instance, the Pacers’ hypothetical schedule (after cutting teams not traveling to Orlando) would consist of the 76ers, the Heat, the Suns, the Magic, the Rockets, the Kings, the Clippers, and the Lakers.
However, the Heat’s potential schedule would include playing the Bucks, the Pacers, the Nuggets, the Suns, the Celtics, the Pistons, and then the Pacers again, despite the fact that the Pacers would’ve already completed their eight-game schedule. Obviously, the NBA will have to propose a different plan regarding scheduling.
Nonetheless, it’s clear that in less than two month’s time, our guys will be tipping off in Orlando. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the circumstances for each former Wahoo.
Brogdon is in the best position of his fellow ‘Hoos since the Pacers are currently fifth in the Eastern Conference standings and are ensured a top-6 seed in the conference because of their 8.5 game lead on the seventh seed Nets.
The Pacers will be in competition with the Sixers and the Heat for the fourth seed in the Eastern conference. As of now, they’re tied for the fifth seed with Philadelphia in overall record at 39-26, but Indiana has the tiebreaker in head-to-head contests, 2-1. The Heat are two games ahead of the Pacers and the 76ers at 41-24 overall.
Fortunately for the Pacers, it appears that the team will be fully healthy come July 31st, assuming no new injuries occur before that date. Brogdon, who suffered a torn left rectus femoris in March, has long said he’s back to 100%. Victor Oladipo, who, in January, returned from a twelve-month absence, should also have been able to utilize this time off to truly get himself back up to speed.
The Sixers have also benefited from the break as star players Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid ought to be fully healthy for this unique conclusion to the season. Originally, a back injury had endangered Simmons’ chances of getting healthy for the beginning of the playoffs, but, now, reports indicate that he’ll be all set come late July.
For Joe Harris and the Nets however, the situation appears much murkier. Significant injuries for Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have curbed the stars’ first season in Brooklyn, and the Nets are currently sitting seventh in Eastern conference, half a game ahead of the eighth-placed Magic, and six games ahead of the ninth-placed Wizards.
It appears that Irving won’t return, but there were rumblings back in March that Durant could potentially play if the season resumed. That said, the Nets have been awfully vague about his recovery process. If the Nets get Durant back, they’d likely be a force of a seven seed. If not, they’ll likely be stuck with an unfortunate first round series against a far superior team.
Now, everything is still up in the air, and, considering the NBA Finals will be held in October, all injury recovery timetables that already existed have to be thrown out the window.
Unlike the aforementioned teams, Ty Jerome’s Suns are one of the six teams outside of the playoff picture. As of now, the Suns sit exactly six games back from the eighth seed Grizzlies.
To qualify for the playoffs, the Suns will have to jump from the thirteenth seed to the ninth AND get within four games of the eighth seed to force a play-in tournament. If they do so, they’d enter a play-in tournament with the eight seed, who’d they’d likely have to beat twice to qualify for the playoffs.
The Sacramento Kings are in a similar position. Currently, the Kings are 2.5 games back from eighth place. While the Kings are in a better spot than the Suns, it’s uncertain as to whether or not Kyle Guy will be in Orlando. As a two-way player, Guy would have to be promoted to the active fifteen-man roster to play in Orlando.
In the past, two-way players who weren’t placed on the active NBA roster could travel with the team throughout the playoffs. But with the likely thirty-five-person limit per team in place in the bubble, it’s uncertain as to whether or not Guy will be in Orlando when the Kings travel there on July seventh. Obviously, the best case scenario would be that Guy gets to play. But since the Kings are so guard-heavy, his chances at a roster spot appear slim.
Details are still coming out regarding this how this unprecedented conclusion to the NBA season will work. But, for now, we can all take solace in the fact that basketball will be returning in eight weeks’ time.