With the impending announcement on a return to NBA action T.I. dives into the OKC Thunder and 20 team’s records and performance entering the hiatus.
With the OKC Thunder and their counterparts awaiting a decision on the season return, one key aspect is what the return schedule will look like. Teams had between 15 and 19 games remaining when the suspension began (the Thunder had 18 games remaining) and had played most of their opposite conference teams earlier in the season.
Assuming a return will feature regular-season games these are all factors at play in determining what each team’s schedule will look like. For example, what if a team had already played the hardest part of their schedule? If only the top 20 teams were slated to play how would that be fair for a team who accumulated a better record based on playing more lottery teams, and less or easier back-to-back sets? Why should one team play 12 back-to-back sets while another played eight?
For example, although it’s gone largely unnoticed or mentioned the Bucks have benefited greatly by their early schedule. Firstly, they’ve played nine back-to-back sets featuring only one set with both teams from the seeded group. More importantly in over 40 of their games either the primary star or core contributor(s) weren’t in the lineup.
Why OKC Thunder and opponents should want more regular-season games:
For those who prefer a numeric value, a whopping 66 percent of the Bucks games were played without the primary star or a key contributor(s) in the lineup. Perhaps this speaks to why Milwaukee lost four of five games just prior to the hiatus which is one-third of the games they’ve lost in the 65 games they’d played.
As for the OKC Thunder, each of their games versus the Bucks was played without one starter. Steven Adams missed the first contest and Danilo Gallinari sat out in the second meeting.
The reason this is a factor for the Thunder and some other clubs is an easier end schedule could allow them to move up from their current seed. But, if all the teams are only playing the better teams the chances of moving up aren’t as high.
Although this is an unusual situation the fact remains teams who had easier closing schedules shouldn’t be penalized while those teams who had tough schedules benefit from their earlier itinerary.
One option is for the bottom two seeds from each conference and the four Western Conference seeds chasing the Grizzlies conduct a play-in tournament to determine the final playoff berths.
Damian Lillard sure is pushing for this to happen as he told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:
“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.”
Here’s the thing Dame — sure your team got nailed because of injuries but so did the Raptors who still managed to amass the third-best record in the league.
More importantly, why should teams like the Thunder who had a shot of moving up to fourth or third not get that opportunity while teams who failed to claim the sixth seed or higher get the chance to move up?
And that’s the dynamics of this unusual situation. No matter what format or option the league elects to take there will be teams not happy with the choice. The main factor is Adam Silver has to be careful this return doesn’t just benefit those teams outside the playoff picture. The teams who did manage to land in the upper seeds should be the teams (if any) that get extra credence in these decisions.
Therefore, the following offers a break down of the 16 seeded teams and four Western Conference teams chasing a playoff berth. Items noted are performance versus playoff seeds and lottery teams, road/home records, as well as the number of back-to-back sets played and record in those games.
For perspective on what each team’s desires might be in terms of playing regular-season games other items are examined. Specifically, where the team resides in their conference and overall, teams they are chasing or lead and how they were performing at the time the league began the suspension.