The NBA seems to have a plan, and the Boston Celtics could benefit from it.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported the league will vote on a return plan Thursday, which would invite 22 teams — 16 teams currently in playoff position and six teams with the next-best records — to Orlando, Fla. to compete in eight regular-season games. It is expected to start July 31.
Following those eight games, the NBA will hold a play-in tournament for the No. 8 seed in each conference, as long as the ninth-place team is close enough in the standings. The 16 teams standing then will compete for a trip to the NBA Finals, and ultimately the NBA title, all of which will be held in Orlando.
Here’s what all that means for the Celtics:
Boston (43-21) currently is the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference. But, and perhaps most importantly, the eight regular-season games provide a chance, while maybe slim, to improve that seeding. The C’s are just three games back of the second-seeded Toronto Raptors (46-18).
The No. 2 seed likely would earn the Celtics a first-round matchup with the Brooklyn Nets. If Boston doesn’t move in the standings, it would play against the No. 6 Philadelphia 76ers. Simply, the Nets, who likely will be without both Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, could prove an easier first-round draw than the Sixers, who the C’s went 1-3 against during the 2019-20 season.
Then again, the fourth-seeded Miami Heat (41-24) are just 2 1/2 games back of the Celtics, so there’s a few teams who could move during the final eight games. The fifth-seeded Indiana Pacers (39-26) and sixth-seeded Sixers (39-26) both trail Boston by 4 1/2 games, so while it’s not impossible for either (or both) to catch Miami, it’s unlikely they’ll uproot the Celtics.
While seeding is the biggest benefit, the Celtics, like all other NBA teams, will benefit from the mere fact there’s eight regular-season games remaining. It gives teams a chance to shake the rust off so, if nothing else, the postseason will be played at a higher level.
The league’s Board of Governors will vote at 12:30 p.m. ET on Thursday to approve the plan.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images