The 16 teams that already were in playoff contention at the time of the season’s suspension will go, as will five additional teams in the West and one additional team in the East. Playing in Orlando gives the league a more controlled environment for resumption of play, as the league tries to minimize risk of spreading the coronavirus.
At 20-47, the Hawks sit at No. 14 of 15 teams in the Eastern Conference standings, with the fourth-worst record in the NBA, and are well outside the playoff race. They had 15 games outstanding.
This plan is not official yet, as team owners will take a vote in Thursday’s Board of Governors meeting to ratify the plan, but it appears the Hawks’ season likely is over.
On ESPN's "The Jump," Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce told Rachel Nichols on Tuesday that he "without a doubt" wanted his team to be included in the Orlando scenario: "I coach the youngest team in the NBA. The biggest thing, and the biggest thing we can benefit from is playing basketball, and we've been, the game has been taken away from all of us, at this point. But if the season's going to resume, and we're still not a part of it, it hurts our growth, it hurts our product, it hurts our ability to continue the momentum that we need going into next season.
“I play young guys, I have guys, and so they need game experience. We need to play basketball. We want to play basketball. ... But we all understand, there’s so many scenarios, and we’re all anxiously waiting to find out where we sit in that. Whatever the course of action, we’ll continue to find ways to get better as an organization with our guys.”
The six teams invited that were not in playoff contention are all within six games of earning a postseason bid. Milwaukee (53-12), Toronto (46-18), Boston (43-21), Miami (41-24), Indiana (39-26), Philadelphia (39-26), Brooklyn (30-34) and Orlando (30-35) will represent the East, in addition to Washington (24-40).
The Lakers (49-14), the Clippers (44-20), Denver (43-22), Utah (41-23), Oklahoma City (40-24), Houston (40-24), Dallas (40-27) and Memphis (32-33) will represent the West, in addition to Portland (29-37), New Orleans (28-36), Sacramento (28-36), San Antonio (27-36) and Phoenix (26-39).
In addition to the Hawks, Eastern Conference teams Charlotte (23-42), Chicago (22-43), New York (21-45), Detroit (20-46) and Cleveland (19-46) will not get the chance to play in Orlando, per ESPN’s report. Neither will Western Conference teams Minnesota (19-45) and Golden State (15-50).
The Hawks were an exceptionally young team this season, and though they took a step forward in January and February, they couldn’t make up much ground in the standings after starting out 8-32. They went 12-15 from Jan. 14 to March 11, when the season was suspended. They had two 10-game losing streaks, one in November and one in December.
John Collins' 25-game suspension (which began Nov. 5 and concluded Dec. 23) massively hurt the Hawks, as did poor team defense, a second unit that struggled to score when Trae Young was off the floor and the lack of a starting-caliber center for most of the season. The Hawks added centers Clint Capela and Dewayne Dedmon at the trade deadline, and though Dedmon gave the defense a boost, he only played 10 games with the Hawks because of injuries, and Capela has yet to make his debut because of a nagging heel injury.
Per ESPN, the 22 teams will start training in July and there will be “daily testing for the coronavirus within the Disney campus environment,” and if a player tests positive, the plan would be to remove that player from the team environment to quarantine and be treated individually, but play would continue.
A delayed start for the 2020-21 season is highly likely, since the playoffs will end so late in this year.