Preview of the 2020-2021 NBA Season

The National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) have reached an agreement to start the 2020-2021 season Dec. 22. Here’s what you need to know about this quick start.

COVID-19 has brought up many questions about how this upcoming season will operate as the cases continue to rise. Will players have to accept a salary cut? Will the NBA have another dent in their ratings? Will the NBA be able to start before Christmas?

This past season, 22 out of the 30 teams played in what was called “The Bubble.” No fans were in attendance; everybody on the team, including staff, had to be tested every day; and players and coaches were kept away from their families for months. Thanks to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and all parties involved, there were 0 positive tests reported. The season ended with a Lakers victory Oct. 11. Then, decisions had to be made on how the following season would be organized.

The NBA and NBPA have both agreed that a 72-game season was the ideal for the circumstance. The season will start Dec. 22 and end May 16. This shortened season, ten games less than the usual season, will cause an even larger revenue drop off than last year’s $1.5 million loss. This year, the NBA is projected to lose $4 billion in revenue. Those billions of dollars are coming mostly from the money made from ticket sales and TV deals.

The salary cap usually increases annually because the NBA is gaining exposure every year. This year, however, the owners have decided to keep it at last year’s cap: $109.14 million. Depending on the revenue generated, the NBA will drastically or barely raise the salary cap for the 2021-2022 season. This could shift where some superstars land because teams might not have enough cap space to give a top player a max contract and still pay the rest of the roster if the cap doesn’t increase and the player’s value does. Top free agents for the 2021-2022 season are Giannis Antetokounmpo, Rudy Gobert, Victor Oladipo, and others with player options in their contracts.

A salary cap will not be the only change impacting players. You might see the 72-game season and think it’ll benefit the players in preserving their bodies. That assumption, however, doesn’t tell the whole story. This upcoming season will have three times as many back-to-back games than the previous season. Back-to-back games are renowned for being exhausting and even cause some star players to use load management. Load management allows players to skip regular-season games to preserve their body for the playoffs. This season will be very condensed and that will be more detrimental than beneficial for the players.

The NBA free agency plays a big part in improving and rebuilding teams. This year, it starts Nov. 20 (official signings start at noon on Nov. 22) and ends Dec.1 (same day training camp starts), giving teams a minimal amount of time to negotiate million-dollar deals. This short window benefits the star-studded teams because the less talented teams have less time to improve their roster.

The NBA draft took place Nov. 18. Lamelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, and the other rising stars drafted are expected to make an immediate impact on their teams. However, these rookies will be without a preseason to build chemistry on the court with their teammates in an already shortened regular season, which could hurt their immediate performance.

At first, there were doubts about NBA players participating in the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics because of overlap. Before the agreement to start on December 22nd, Adam Silver said, “I think it’s unlikely at the end of the day that, if we start late, we would stop for the Olympics.” Now, with the NBA starting and ending quickly, there will be enough time, 65 days, for the players to rest and participate in the competition. Hopefully, Coronavirus cases will diminish significantly by the 2021 Olympics. The vice president of the International Olympic Committee says the Olympics will take place “with or without COVID-19”, not planning on postponing the worldwide event for two years straight. 

The NBA’s quick start will have a big impact on players, commissioners, owners, and events. This impact, however, allows fans to watch their favorite teams compete in these unprecedented times. The NBA had 0 positive tests last year and I’m expecting no different this year. Now, let’s get ready for some basketball.