ESPN’s Wojnarowski hints that Rockets could avoid play-in tournament

Houston Rockets James Harden Russell Westbrook (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets James Harden Russell Westbrook (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images) /

As the league considers all of it’s options upon a return to play, ESPN’s NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski explains how the Houston Rockets could dodge a play-in tournament.

There’s been a growing amount of optimism on the basketball front of late, as the NBA player’s association received an overwhelming confirmation that the players do in fact want to finish the season. The league formed a committee of star players, which includes Houston Rockets point guard Russell Westbrook, to provide leadership and serve as a voice for the players.

On Wednesday The Athletic’s Shams Charania and Sam Amick (subscription required) announced that the league had narrowed in on Orlando as the destination for it’s “campus-like environment.” Interestingly enough, it was also announced that Houston was deemed a possible destination on the same day.

What’s been less clear is how exactly the format will look upon the league’s return. It’s been stated previously that everything was on the table, including resuming in the playoffs, potentially having a shortened version of the playoffs, and even having a play-in tournament for the bottom two spots in each conference.

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On ESPN’s Wednesday night version of SportsCenter, senior NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski provided a glimpse of how a play-in tournament would look and how it could be the key to granting non-contending teams an opportunity to resume action on the hardwood.

“I think ideally they’d like to bring everybody back and play some regular season games. What that structure looks like, that’s where you’re going to start to see some hard feelings come in.

Think if you’re Dallas or Memphis in the West, at seven and eight. They have significantly outplayed everybody behind them in the West. But what if they have to do a play-in?

Because you’ve got to incentivize some of these teams to go through a few weeks of training camp, to come back and play. This is where it’s going to get really hard and Adam Silver is going to get really tested.”

There are plenty of key takeaways here, as there’s alot to unpack from Woj’s words. This isn’t exactly a “Woj bomb” and Wojnarowksi doesn’t exactly state the league’s concrete plans, but Woj is one of the most reliable sources on the NBA front and he certainly wouldn’t be pulling this out of thin air.

It’s worth noting the two teams Woj mentioned while speaking about a potential play-in tournament are the Dallas Mavericks and the Memphis Grizzlies. This makes sense considering how they occupy the bottom two seeds in the Western Conference, which means the Houston Rockets would narrowly dodge the tournament altogether, as they hold the sixth seed.

What we’ve consistently heard about this idea is that the current 7th-10th place teams would compete for the final spots in each conference. As Woj explains, this could potentially cause hard feelings because the Grizzlies are 3.5 games ahead of the Portland Trail Blazers and New Orleans Pelicans, who currently sit at ninth and tenth place in the Western Conference. The Mavs would certainly have a legitimate gripe, as they are 10.5 games ahead of the Pels and the Blazers.

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It’ll be interesting to hear what happens as we get closer to the June 1st date that was cited for the league’s front office to provide more details on what a return looks like. But overall, it seems likely that the Rockets would dodge a play-in tournament, if the league decides to go that direction.