The NBA season has been suspended since March 11 and the lack of games has cost the league millions.
That number could climb into the billions if the postseason doesn't happen in any capacity, which is why the NBA playoffs will almost assuredly get played. But in what form?
Many different variations have been speculated, including playing out the remainder of the regular season which seems unlikely to heading straight into the postseason using the standings as of March 11. No team outside the conference's top-eight was closer than 3.5 games from making the postseason, so that seems decently fair.
But the NBA wants to maximize revenue when it returns to minimize the league's losses.
In a league driven by star power, the NBA may shift to a model that allows some of the NBA's biggest stars to return to the court even if they were most likely going to be on the outside looking in. That mindset, as reported by NBC Sports NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh, could be a determining factor for the league bringing back more than 16 teams to allow Zion Williamson to draw more eyes to the games.
Just about everybody in the league is wondering how many teams will be going to Orlando if/when the NBA season resumes. 16? 20? 24? 30? In my conversations with several team execs, one detail keeps coming up: Zion Williamson is on a No. 10 seed.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) May 26, 2020
Zion Williams has quickly become one of the most popular players in the NBA. According to Variety, 2.36 million people tuned in for his debut game despite Williamson operating on a strict minutes restriction. Zion's first matchup against LeBron on TNT drew 2.24 million viewers while an Eastern Conference Finals rematch Bucks-Raptors earlier that night only had 1.15 million tune in.
As fun as Ja Morant and the upstart Memphis Grizzlies are, everyone besides those living in Memphis would rather watch Zion take on the Lakers for four games than the Grizzlies. But the NBA can't just put Zion into the field of 16 as the Pelicans are 3.5 games behind Memphis for the final playoff spot, but they can expand the field of teams to fit in the Pelicans. Which by consequence would include the Portland Trail Blazers who have one more win than the Pelicans but one more loss for a winning percentage barely higher than New Orleans'.
In fact, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday afternoon that the Blazers are one of the four teams being explored in potential NBA return plans.
Story includes continued conversations about a return-to-play that includes the 16-playoff teams -- plus the four Western Conference teams on playoff bubble: Blazers, Kings, Pelicans and Spurs. https://t.co/jNGtRvVUFJ— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 27, 2020
NBC Sports Northwest Blazers Insider Dwight Jaynes later reiterated that the Blazers having one more win than the Pelicans could be the difference between returning to the court or not.
Best thing now to keep Blazer playoff hopes alive: They are ahead of Zion's team. https://t.co/NwWG8UsDY1— Dwight Jaynes (@dwightjaynes) May 26, 2020
Damian Lillard told Yahoo! Sports NBA Insider Chris Haynes on Tuesday that he would only participate in any more games this season if the Blazers have a real opportunity to make the postseason.
If we come back and they're just like, 'We're adding a few games to finish the regular season,' and they're throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don't have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs, I'm going to be with my team because I'm a part of the team. But I'm not going to be participating. I'm telling you that right now. And you can put that [expletive] in there. - Damian Lillard
The NBA announced this past Saturday that they have entered negotiations with the Walt Disney Corporation to play out the rest of the 2019-20 season at its ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.
Be sure to check out the full Talkin' Blazers Podcast with host NBA Champion Channing Frye and Emmy Award winner Dan Sheldon.
Why the Trail Blazers' best bet to make the postseason is Zion Williamson originally appeared on NBC Sports Northwest