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A proposal on resuming the NBA season with all 30 teams in a bracket

Devin Booker #1 of the Phoenix Suns handles the ball during the second half of the NBA game against the Philadelphia 76ers at Talking Stick Resort Arena on November 04, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The NBA is struggling to come up with the best system to bring games back. I think it’s simple. Everyone gets in!

Bring all 30 teams to Orlando and play five to 10 regular season games to bring every team as close as you can to an equal number of games (most teams are around 65 games played now). An even 72 sounds good to me.

The NBA should embrace an opportunity they will never have again. Take the greatest things from the NCAA tournament (the bracket and single-elimination) and incorporate it into the NBA playoffs.

The negative of everyone gets in is the way it destroys the sanctity of the regular season games that have already been played. I present to you the solution: DAYTON, OHIO!

No, I’m not saying the Dayton Flyers get into the NBA playoffs or to bring the playoffs to Dayton. I’m saying a play-in style tournament for the bottom seeds just like what Dayton represents to the NCAA tournament. If the standings didn’t change, here’s what the bracket would look like:

Doug Franz’s proposed NBA bracket

Since every team is going to be sent to DisneyWorld, there’s no reason to divide anything geographically. Everything to the far left of the bracket is single elimination. I wouldn’t call it this but it’s “the fight for 24” (I get lucky since it matches the shot clock).

I’m giving reverence to the regular season by rewarding the top eight teams, which will skip the single-elimination period. I’m punishing seeds 24-30 with a single-elimination tournament but they still have something to play for because they can advance. The 24-seed Bulls have an advantage over 30-seed Golden State because the Warriors have to win four games to advance into the round of 24 while Chicago only has to win one game, but Chicago still has to face single-elimination because they’re 22-43!

The next round is where it really gets interesting. In the round of 24 (from 9-seed OKC to the winner of the play-in tournament that receives the 24th seed), it’s single-elimination for the lower seed but double-elimination for the higher seed.

To better explain, look at the Philadelphia-Phoenix match up. You can find it in the middle of the bracket where the 12 seed meets the 21st. The Sixers are 39-26 so they deserve a tremendous advantage over the (reciprocal) 26-39 Suns. If Philadelphia wins game one, the series is over. If the Suns win, there’s a winner-take-all game two. You still get the desperation from the low seed while rewarding the higher seed for their regular season record. However, there’s a clear separation for the 1-8 seeds who avoid the pressure.

Look at the story lines from that part of the bracket! Joel Embiid and his feud with Deandre Ayton; Damian Lillard saying he won’t play without something to play for and he can be gone in one game versus the Magic; Texas rivals Spurs and Mavs; Zion Williamson might play Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving; or the Cinderella story if the “Dayton” bracket winner wins game one against OKC to force the elimination game.

In the next round, the 1-8 seeds are included. This is best-of-five. I don’t want the playoff to drag too long so I shorten this round but I still want it long enough to ensure the 1-8 seeds aren’t eliminated on a whim.

I also take into account the rest vs rust argument. I would have the 1-8 seeds play two regular season games between each other to stay sharp while the 9-30 seeds are playing their tournament. These games would count statistically and in the standings but I wouldn’t change the bracket. This way we get closer to some regular season statistical numbers for the players and there’s more games for their local networks to broadcast.

After the best-of-five series, there are 8 teams remaining. We would then go to a totally standard best-of-seven, and have a normal series. This way, we’re stealing the greatness of the NCAA tournament with previous rounds of single-elimination and possibly creating Cinderella stories, but we keep the sanctity of the hard-fought seven-game series for the best that make it to the Elite Eight.

As a Suns fan, I also love this because it’s more games for the young core to play after the “rest” received during the long layoff. I don’t want Ayton going from March-December without playing a competitive NBA game. It also gives the team a taste of true playoff desperation. If they lose, it will hopefully light the fire for next year. If they beat Philly twice, it’s Devin Booker in a best-of-five against the one team that has never been able to stop him: Boston. Jayson Tatum and Booker, two young All-Stars on the national stage.

Losing that series would show them how far they still have to go to really compete. If they shock the world, they’ll get blown out by the Clippers in a best-of-seven, but that’s not the point. The Suns can watch the match-ups of a playoff coach like Doc Rivers on TV. They can sit at home and see how intense a true MVP plays in the playoffs like Kawhi Leonard.

Actually feeling it, though, is totally different than seeing. The exposure to that level of basketball is something so few of these players have felt. It could exponentially accelerate their growth.

Sadly, too many of us probably forget what the playoffs are like. Maybe I’ve created this for us so we can remember what’s been gone for an entire decade: the Suns in the playoffs.


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