There is a sense right now that teams on the playoff bubble will have the chance to make the postseason and ESPN’s Brian Windhorst made recent comments on the podcast ‘The Hoop Collective’ that a World Cup group stage format gives the Pelicans that opportunity.
“I’ll tell you one thing: that scenario gets Zion Williamson in. I’m not saying the NBA is going this route, I’m just saying I’ve already heard this scenario that no matter what happens, the cutoff line will be the Pelicans. They’ll be in.”
The Pelicans are 3.5 games back of the 8th seed Memphis Grizzlies and they were scheduled to play two games against one another during the rest of the regular season.
New Orleans had a path to the playoffs before the season was suspended so it’s no surprise that the Pelicans are the “cutoff line.” They also have the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft Zion Williamson.
They are not the only team with a real chance to make the postseason. The Portland Trailblazers are also one team in the West that are right at the edge of the playoffs.
Portland star Damian Lillard told Yahoo’s Chris Haynes he will sit out games if there is no true opportunity to make the playoffs. Portland is currently the 9th seed in the West.
The only way the league will not offer these teams a true opportunity to make the postseason is if the safety risk do not allow it.
Playing the full 82-game regular season plus the postseason is not possible so playing 70-72 regular seasons games and a play-in tournament that includes the final four seeds in each conference is the best way to keep the respectability of the regular season while fast-tracking the season into a workable timeline.
When the league includes the teams right outside the playoffs it makes it more entertaining for the fans and it gives players like Lillard the opportunity they want.
It’s no surprise the Pelicans would be the “cutoff line.” The more teams the league can include, the better. The Pelicans would be the “cutoff line” in the West and the Charlotte Hornets would be that line in the East.
This would be a real conspiracy if Windhorst said “The Hornets are the cutoff line.” The Hornets are seven games back the Orlando Magic for the 8th spot.
The NBA has been suspended since early March due to the COVID-19 pandemic and there has been progress towards a possible season return.
NBA team practice facilities are opening, NBA players in international countries are allowed to travel back to the United States and the league has narrowed down its destination to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. There have even been surveys for the NBA general managers.
The Athletic’s Sham Charania released the result of a recent GM survey.
There are question marks around specific safety protocols and how the format for a season return will look. We have a better idea about what the general managers would want to see, but we do not know what the finalized format is right now.
Ideas of a World Cup group stage, only the top 24 teams could be allowed to return or even going straight to the postseason have all been circulating.
Whatever the format is, the “cutoff line” comment is not a big conspiracy to get the Pelicans in the playoffs because Zion is more fun to watch than Ja Morant. It’s about pleasing the teams, fans and players overall.