Why Orlando Magic fans should love the NBA’s return-to-play format

With the Board of Governors and the NBPA signing off on the NBA’s return-to-play plan, all that’s left to do is iron out the details. Here’s why Orlando Magic fans should love the NBA’s plan.

In less than ideal circumstances, it is safe to say the NBA has nailed this one.

And Orlando Magic fans should rejoice.

It has been three months since March 11 — the night the coronavirus pandemic caused the postponement of the NBA’s season. As we know now, the entire country would follow suit in the weeks after.

With almost every aspect of life put on hold, the NBA took a back seat. There were weeks where it seemed like it would be impossible for the league to resume this year — reports even suggested it could be until 2021 until we see team sports again.

But recently it seems as though the skies have cleared. Although COVID-19 is not completely wiped away, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Sports leagues have begun to see this, including the NBA.

As announced by several sources and then voted on by the league, the NBA’s return-to-play plan is as follows:

  • 22-teams will return to play at the ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort right here in Orlando.
  • Each team will play eight regular-season games to determine playoff seeding
  • If the ninth seed is within four games of eight seed, there will be a play-in game. (Double elimination for the eighth seed, single-elimination for the ninth seed)
  • Playoff structure will be standard (seven-game series within conferences)
  • Games are tentatively set to begin July 31, Playoffs begin on August 16, NBA Finals begin September 30

Details in the plan are still being finalized. But, by all accounts, basketball is back.

The general consensus is the NBA has done the best they can with the hand they have been dealt. They will do what they can to finish the season and give every team their chance to play for something. The only teams staying home are the ones that were too far gone from the Playoff race.

How do the fans feel about this? I cannot speak for the other teams, but Orlando Magic fans should love the NBA’s return-to-play format.

The plan is fair for all parties

It is good to have basketball back.

For the longest time, it was uncertain if the NBA was going to be able to return to finish this season. There were conflicting reports throughout much of the past few months until Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the silence with a legendary tweet:

“The NBA is back” is the most simple way to describe the news, but also the most profound.

Despite outstanding circumstances, it looks as though the NBA found the best option for all parties involved.

The league gets to return in order to continue to put out a product and determine a champion. The television networks receive the broadcasts they have been hurting for the past few months. The owners are able to continue to generate revenue for their franchises through those television contracts.

Most of all, the players are able to finish the season, receiving their full paychecks.

In what could have been a disastrous situation, the league found a way to balance everyone’s needs  — including the Orlando Magic.

As a team in the eighth slot in the East, the league could have easily limited the return to the top six seeds in each conference, but they did not. They could have made the bottom seeds play a one-off play-in game, but they did not.

It was important for the NBA to respect the regular season games already completed as well as give outside teams a chance to make a run at the playoffs.

Surprisingly enough, NBA officials respected what teams at the bottom of the playoffs had earned already at this point in the season. For Orlando Magic fans, that is something to be thankful for.

Potentially favorable schedule for the Magic

As others have outlined already: the potential schedule for the Magic looks to be favorable. As originally reported by Vincent Goodwill, the plan is for teams to continue with some resemblance of the remaining schedule as planned. This means that the Magic may avoid some of the best teams in the league.

The Magic also find themselves at a favorable spot in the standings. With only nine teams from the East making the trip to Disney, the team should be on a fast track to the playoffs.

The Washington Wizards would need to make up 1.5 games during the eight “seeding” games to even qualify for a play-in series. Even if the Magic let that happen, the Wizards would need to beat them twice. If that were to happen, the only people to blame are the Magic themselves.

They have every advantage with a sizable cushion, a more favorable schedule and four wins in their back pocket against the Wizards from earlier in the season. It would take a serious change for the Magic to lose that spot.

And Orlando still has eyes ahead of it in the standings.

The best aspect of the return-to-play format for Magic fans is not about avoiding the worst-case scenario. It is hope for the best-case.

With this new format the Magic can do the best thing for their chances to make a run in the playoffs — avoid a matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round.

At just 0.5 games back of seventh, the Orlando Magic could catch the Brooklyn Nets for the to avoid that matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks. The Nets are likely without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving for the remainder of the season.

Plus, the two teams are likely to face each other once if not twice. The two teams will be able to determine their playoff fate directly. That is all a team can ask for.

This would likely result in a series against the Toronto Raptors instead of the Milwaukee Bucks. Although the Raptors are the defending champs, all Magic fans can agree this is a much more favorable matchup.

Orlando still has its work cut out for it. The team is 0-9 against the top three teams in the Eastern Conference so far this season. The Orlando Magic might get one more shot at both the Boston Celtics and Toronto Raptors during the seeding games to change that narrative.

With three months away from basketball, fans will be surprised to see the gap between the great teams and average teams has begun to shrink. With all that has happened, the chase for the championship with be a true wide-open race.

Jumping from the eighth seed to the seventh seed would do wonders for the Magic’s hopes of making a run.

Development for players

Playing out this season will be a great experience for the players.

Orlando Magic fans know that prior to last season’s playoff berth, the team had not qualified for the playoffs since 2012. This means almost the entire roster needs more playoff experience.

Many young players will develop during this time, no matter how long the Magic stay in the mix. Mohamed Bamba, Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac (if he returns from injury) are all prospects who will have the chance to prove themselves on a big stage.

This will also give more proven players a chance to show they have what it takes to succeed in the playoffs.

Aaron Gordon will need to make his impact known if he wants to be considered a potential star moving forward. Eight-year veteran Nikola Vucevic has the chance to finally prove to the league why fans have said he has been underrated for years.

For Magic fans, it would be a dream to see their players recognized for their talent. Players like shooting guard Evan Fournier have flown under the radar their entire careers simply because they have not had many chances to show it in the playoffs. This is that chance.

All eyes will be on every game in a way it probably would not have been before. Every game might get a national audience in addition to the local audience.

Development is key for a franchise in the building stage. Although it may not be as exciting as a high lottery pick or a huge free agency signing — players grow in pressure situations.

Just after a time where it was uncertain if basketball would return, we must be thankful that there are even pressure situations to partake in. The NBA’s return-to-play format allows the contending teams to play for a championship and gives the other teams a platform to compete and develop.

That is about all we could ask for. The Magic will have a chance to play their way into the Playoffs and get the experience they wanted for their young team from the start of the year.