NBA playoff predictions: Updated model suddenly loves Sixers’ title chances

The 2019-20 NBA season will have a conclusion.

The league’s Board of Governors have approved a 22-team plan to resume the season at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, and each team will play an eight-game schedule to determine seeding for the 2020 NBA playoffs. 

Here’s everything you need to know about the NBA’s return inside a “bubble” in Orlando.

Who are the teams going to Orlando? What are the NBA standings?

Nine returning teams are from the Eastern Conference and 13 are from the Western Conference. In the East, only Washington has a chance to jump into playoff position, while in the West, Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio and Phoenix could all advance into playoff position. 

Here are the standings entering the restart:

East

  1. x-Milwaukee — 53-12
  2. x-Toronto — 46-18
  3. x-Boston — 43-21
  4. x-Miami — 41-24
  5. x-Indiana — 39-26
  6. x-Philadelphia — 39-26
  7. Brooklyn — 30-34
  8. Orlando — 30-35
  9. Washington — 24-40

West

  1. x-L.A. Lakers  — 49-14
  2. x-L.A. Clippers — 44-20
  3. x-Denver — 43-22
  4. x-Utah — 41-23
  5. x-Oklahoma City — 40-24
  6. x-Houston — 40-24
  7. Dallas — 40-27
  8. Memphis — 32-33
  9. Portland — 29-37
  10. New Orleans — 28-36
  11. Sacramento — 28-36
  12. San Antonio — 27-36
  13. Phoenix — 26-39

At 39-26, the Sixers sit sixth in the Eastern Conference. They’re clinched for the playoffs, but they have an opportunity to earn a higher seed with the eight “regular season” games on their schedule. The fifth-seeded Pacers are also 39-26, while the fourth-seeded Heat are two games ahead of the Sixers.

The final regular-season games will impact the Sixers in the 2020 NBA draft, as well. If the Thunder finish with one of the NBA’s 11 best records, the Sixers will own Oklahoma City’s top-20 protected first-round pick, which they acquired when they traded Markelle Fultz to Orlando last February. 

What is the Sixers’ schedule?

The NBA schedule for the 22 teams headed to Orlando was released on June 26. It will begin August 1 at 1 p.m. ET, with five games being played that day. The Sixers are one of those games. Here’s their full schedule for the seeding games:

Aug. 1, 7 p.m.: Indiana
Aug. 3, 8 p.m: San Antonio
Aug. 5, 4 p.m.: Washington
Aug. 7, 6:30 p.m.: Orlando
Aug. 9, 6:30 p.m.: Portland
Aug. 11, 4:30 p.m.: Phoenix
Aug. 12, 6:30 p.m.: Toronto 
Aug. 14, TBD: Houston 

How will the new format address COVID-19?

The season has been suspended since March 11, when Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus. On March 19, the Sixers announced that three members of the organization had tested positive for COVID-19. As of July 1, the Sixers say that no members of their organization have tested positive as they prepare for Orlando. 

The NBA’s health and safety memo is 113 pages long. Players and staff will quarantine for 36 hours and will be required to test negative in two tests, 24 hours apart, upon arrival. There will be “regular” testing for players and coaches. 

Where do the Sixers stand entering the restart?

The Sixers’ last game before the hiatus was a 124-106 win over the Pistons in which Joel Embiid scored 30 points after a five-game absence because of a left shoulder sprain and Al Horford had 20 points and 10 rebounds. That victory improved the Sixers to an NBA-best 29-2 at Wells Fargo Center, the best home mark in the league. They’ve been woeful on the road and sport a 10-24 away record. 

“Obviously playing in front of no fans, especially our fans, isn’t ideal,” head coach Brett Brown said on May 15. “It’s not ideal. Do I think it’ll water down the competitive side? I don’t. … Of course, it’s going to have some level of an impact. I do feel just the mere fact that we’ll be playing again might be able to sort of minimize whatever awkwardness playing in front of zero fans is going to teach all of us.

“I think it will be almost comical, the communication with referees and the back and forth with players and the rest. … And so how it will play out, I don’t know. None of us have ever done this.” 

One potential benefit of the hiatus for the Sixers is the additional time it provided Ben Simmons to rehab. The two-time All-Star had missed the team’s final eight games before the suspension because of a nerve impingement in his lower back, but he will be fully healthy when games begin on August 1

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