The NBA is reportedly going to approve a return-to-play proposal Thursday that would bring 22 teams to Orlando for eight regular-season games each and the playoffs.
If the plan is approved by the league’s board of governors Thursday, as ESPN.com reports it will be, the Timberwolves’ season effectively will be over.
Minnesota was 19-45 when the league paused on March 11 after Rudy Gobert of the Jazz tested positive for coronavirus. Only teams with a chance to make the playoffs in the NBA’s amended season will be brought to Orlando, and the Wolves are among the eight teams that won’t make the cut.
It’s unclear if those eight teams will still be able to train while the other 22 continue the season. ESPN reports that many of those eight teams are lobbying the NBA for various measures to bridge the time between their final games in March and what almost certainly will be a late start to the 2020-21 season.
What is clear is that as long as the proposal passes the Wolves’ final game this season will go in the books as a March 10 loss at Houston. A source last week said the Timberwolves were willing to go along with whatever proposal was deemed in the best interest of the league.
Among the other highlights of the reported plan: 13 Western Conference teams and nine Eastern Conference teams are slated to resume play, since that’s the number in each conference deemed within striking distance of the postseason.
After each team plays eight regular-season games, there would be a play-in for the final spot between the No. 8 and No. 9 seeds in each conference if they are within four games of each other. The No. 9 seed would have to defeat the No. 8 team twice, while the No. 8 team would only have to defeat the No. 9 team once to claim the final spot.
All games will be played in a “bubble” inside Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando without fans in attendance and teams will have to maintain several safety protocols. Training camps reportedly would begin in July, with games to follow.
With all teams essentially playing neutral site games, there will be no home court advantage — a significant edge gone for higher-seeded teams who get an extra home game in typical seven-game playoff series. ESPN also reported those teams that stand to lose that edge are expected to lobby the NBA for different advantages (i.e. extra possessions) in these playoffs.
If the NBA maintains its standard format for the draft lottery, the Wolves would have a 14% chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick after finishing with the third-worst record in the NBA.
It also remains very likely they will have Brooklyn’s first-round pick. The Nets are 30-34, in seventh place in the East and six games ahead of ninth place Washington. The Wolves get the Nets’ first-round pick as long as the Nets make the postseason.