With the NBA making a push to resume the 2019-20 season sometime this summer, discussion has started to build around how the playoff teams will be chosen.
Will the league simply dive straight into the postseason, with the 16 teams currently holding playoff slots? Will they play out the regular season — or a truncated version of it — to shake off rust and determine seeding? Or will there be a tournament for some teams to make the playoffs?
It’s entirely unclear at this point, and will likely be unclear for a while.
What seems likely is that the Golden State Warriors won’t have a path to the playoffs. The Warriors are already eliminated, so the only format that would provide them a route to play meaningful games would be a league-wide tournament that allowed any team to earn a playoff spot.
While plenty of fans are clamoring for that, it doesn’t seem particularly likely.
But the Warriors could still be asked to play. If the league opts to resume some of the regular season, the Warriors will be a part of that, playoffs or not. General manager Bob Myers has already gone on record saying the Warriors will be “good partners” if the league asks them to participate.
Earlier this week, Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard made headlines when he told Yahoo Sports that he wouldn’t play in any games if Portland didn’t have a route to the playoffs. The Blazers currently sit in ninth place in the West, 3.5 games out of the final playoff spot.
Here’s what Lillard told Yahoo reporter Chris Haynes:
“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.”
It’s worth wondering if the Warriors stars will take the same approach.
Golden State has played starless basketball most of the year. Klay Thompson missed all 65 games due to a torn ACL. Steph Curry missed 60 of the games due to a broken hand. Draymond Green missed 22 due to various ailments and rest.
It would seem likely that the Warriors will take a conservative approach. There’s a pandemic. All three players are trying to fully rehab injuries. And there’s a distinct chance that there will be a truncated offseason before the 2020-21 season, so any injuries suffered during meaningless games could have more serious repercussions than usual.
There will be a lot more Damion Lee and Alen Smailagic than Stephen Curry and Draymond Green. In a normal year, no one would care about the Golden State Warriors playing out the final string of games in obscurity with young players. This time? It would represent the unveiling of the NBA’s return, and it would be precisely what the NBA doesn’t want: a bad television spectacle.
Despite the reasons to be cautious, there are plenty of reasons for the Warriors stars to suit up, as well, including the one Wojnarowski listed: To make the much anticipated return to basketball a decent product. But beyond that, there are Warriors-specific reasons.
Thompson hasn’t played in nearly a year, and was banking on using Team USA practices and games this summer to shake off the rust before next year.
Curry has only played five games, and would love to find some rhythm. Perhaps more importantly, when he returned from his injury in March, he was adamant about playing despite being out of the playoff race, because he thought the fans deserved it.
And Green would surely love a chance to turn things around after a disappointing year, and get a little bit of run with his fellow Warriors stars.
Still, it seems most likely that the Warriors will run out a lineup of unproven youngsters, not stars. But one never knows . . .
If the Warriors play games again this season, will the stars play?
This poll is closed
They’ll play all the games
They’ll play a game or two and then rest
They won’t play