NBA Season Approved, Starts Dec. 22
The 2020-21 NBA season is a go as the Board of Governors unanimously approved a 72-game schedule on Tuesday. The Players Association signed off on the deal last week, and the shortened-schedule will begin on Dec. 22.
Tuesday’s agreement on financial and competitive rule changes also clears the way for next week’s NBA draft and the opening of free agency. The draft is set for Wednesday, Nov. 18 at ESPN headquarters, and free agency can begin at 6:00 P.M. ET on Friday, Nov. 20.
Changes for 2020-21
The most significant changes to the upcoming season include 72 games instead of the traditional 82 games, and a shortened offseason for those teams that played late into the playoffs at the Orlando bubble.
The salary cap and luxury tax remain unchanged for this season and will rise by a minimum of three percent and a maximum of 10 percent next year.
Instead of playing in a bubble in Orlando this season, the teams will play in their home stadiums. Each team is expected to follow local stadium rules, as has been the case in the NFL and college football this fall. That means most teams will play in front of 25-50 percent of suite capacity and limited lower bowl seating. Some stadiums will likely be completely empty, which will cost teams millions of dollars.
Christmas Day Games
The agreement this week allows for the NBA to get their traditional Christmas Day slate on TV. The schedule has not yet been announced, but expect the recently successful franchises like the Los Angeles Lakers, Toronto Raptors, Golden State Warriors, and Milwaukee Bucks to be involved. Training camp is tentatively set to open Dec. 1, giving each team three weeks to prepare for the opener.
The 2021 NBA Champion odds changed slightly within the last week and will see more drastic changes after next week’s draft, which will likely include trades. Free agency will see another shift in odds before the Dec. 22 opener.
The defending champion Lakers are +300 to repeat while the LA Clippers are +500. The Golden State Warriors should be healthy after missing the playoffs last year and are +650 to win a fourth title in seven years.
In the Eastern Conference, the Milwaukee Bucks lead the way at +800. The Brooklyn Nets, finally ready to see Kevin Durant in action, are +1000. The Boston Celtics (+1500) and Miami Heat (+1600) round out the top four in the East.
Draft Next Week
The 2020 NBA Draft is set for next Wednesday night, and the festivities will be virtual, hosted at ESPN’s headquarters. The Minnesota Timberwolves, Golden State Warriors, Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls, and Cleveland Cavaliers are slated to draft in the top five.
The college basketball season was shut down in March, and it feels like it's been years since we’ve seen any of the draft prospects in action. Center James Wiseman (Memphis), guard Anthony Edwards (Georgia), guard LaMelo Ball (Illawarra Hawks – New Zealand), and forward Obi Toppin (Dayton) are all candidates for the top of the draft.