The NBA’s Disney World bubble has been a huge success. There were a number of legitimate concerns earlier this summer, but so far Adam Silver and Co. have pulled off an impressive logistical feat, and the players have delivered high-level, entertaining basketball in both the seeding games and the start of the playoffs. 

Such an outcome would be worthy of celebration, but there’s little time for everyone involved to appreciate what they’ve done in Orlando. Instead, they’re all scrambling to figure out what to do about next season. There’s still no definitive start date, and the country’s inability to get a handle on the coronavirus pandemic means they may need to play all, or at least a large portion, of the games in a bubble. 

Those issues affect the league’s ability to figure out the salary cap for next season, which in turn makes it difficult for teams to prepare for the offseason. As such, the league is likely to delay free agency, which is tentatively scheduled to begin on Oct. 18, just two days after the Oct. 16 draft. Furthermore, the Dec. 1 start date the league has penciled in for next season looks increasingly unlikely. Via ESPN:

The longer the league waits on every decision and projection, the hope is that the latest information on the coronavirus pandemic can offer a better understanding of whether there is a possibility of playing games in 2020-21 with fans in arenas, which is vital to the league’s financial health. Commissioner Adam Silver told the players in a conference call in May that game-night receipts account for 40% of NBA revenues.

NBPA executive director Michele Roberts has been publicly and privately skeptical that the league will start next season on its tentative opening night of Dec. 1. Sources said the union has privately suggested to players that the season could start sometime later that month — or even in January or February.

Front-office executives are privately concerned about the lack of salary cap and luxury tax projections in place before the Oct. 16 draft. Those projections would allow them to make crucial decisions — including on possible trades — with a clearer understanding of the financial ramifications.

Among many teams, there is interest in connecting the mid-October draft and free-agency periods so that they could be delayed together, sources said.

At a certain point, the league won’t be able to wait anymore, and will have to just make a decision about what they’re going to do regardless of the state of the coronavirus pandemic; they can’t delay the 2020-21 season forever. But for now, it’s wise to buy themselves some time.

Until they figure out the salary cap and luxury tax situation, delaying free agency and the 2020 NBA Draft is not just the smart thing to do, but a necessity. Those are both crucial periods that can change the trajectory of franchises and the league forever. Going into them without all the necessary information isn’t fair for anyone involved. 

Assuming the league does the right thing and pushes those parts of the calendar back to either late October or early November, it would then make it almost impossible to start the season on Dec. 1. The turnaround time was already going to be extremely quick, but getting through a full offseason and training camp in less than a month just doesn’t work. 

Again, there are so many moving parts here, not only with the league but with the country and the pandemic, that trying to predict what’s going to happen is a bit foolish. But as things stand now, you should probably take the over on Dec. 1 being opening night of the 2020-21 NBA season.


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