The NBA will use win percentage to determine its standings for the playoffs.
With the NBA set to resume at the end of July following a four-and-a-half-month hiatus that began with a month of regular-season basketball remaining, the fairest way to restart the 2019-20 was giving the 16 current playoff teams — plus six teams on the bubble — eight games to jostle for position before diving into the postseason.
The one drawback to giving all 22 games eight contests apiece was the fact that most of these teams were on uneven footing in terms of games played before the coronavirus pandemic put the season on hold. Giving each one of these teams the exact same number of games upon returning means some will have played more regular-season contests than others.
In an attempt to offset this uneven playing field, the NBA has decided to base playoff positioning on win percentage in order to determine seeding, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. This could wind up playing a factor in the potential play-in scenario, particularly between the Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings.
Here’s how the NBA’s tiebreakers and seeding will work.
The league will be using its normal tiebreakers to determine seeding in the event of identical records, but by using win percentage — rather than how many games above or below .500 a team is — the Blazers have a slight advantage.
Portland, New Orleans and Sacramento are all tied for ninth in the Western Conference at eight games below .500, but because the Blazers have played 66 games compared to 64 for the Pelicans and Kings, they have a slightly higher win percentage (.439) compared to those other two (.438). If these three teams post identical records over their eight games in Orlando, Rip City will have the edge via win percentage.
In other words, if the Pelicans or Kings want to surpass Portland for ninth place and get a shot at the play-in game, they’ll have to boast a better eight-game record in Orlando than the Blazers do. Should the Pelicans and Kings tie for ninth-place and wind up with the same record, there will be no separate play-in game to claim the ninth spot. The league will use its normal tiebreaker, giving New Orleans the edge.
Whichever team claims ninth place in either conference must be within 4.0 games of the 8-seed to force a play-in game/series. That play-in scenario will be single elimination for the ninth-place team and double-elimination for the eighth-place team. The 8-seeded Memphis Grizzlies have played 65 games and cannot tie either of these three teams under any circumstance.
The league has quite a few logistical matters to sort out before returning to action on July 31, including protocol for replacing players who are lost due to injury or coronavirus.