Adam Silver speaking

Adam Silver has some tough decisions to make on the start date of the 2021 season (Photo by Martin Cole/DPPI/Icon Sportswire) ****NO AGENTS—NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA SALES ONLY****NO AGENTS—NORTH AND SOUTH AMERICA SALES ONLY****

  • Following initial speculation the 2020-21 season could begin around Christmas, odds now favor a January start
  • Getting back in arenas and the prevalence of the virus are key factors Adam Silver and the league will have to determine
  • See the odds on when the league might get back up and running to begin next year below

The books favor a January start to the 2020-21 NBA season. With the several-month long hiatus from the 2019-20 campaign, which (at the time of writing) is still going, there’s going to be a major restructuring of the NBA calendar.

An offseason as such will still take place. It’s October 9th and there has been no draft or free agency yet. The Los Angeles Lakers and Miami Heat are still in the Orlando bubble – those two teams, in particular, will need a lengthy period to wind down from this season and get ready for the next.

The table below shows the odds on the start date of next season.

Odds on Starting Month of 2021 NBA Season

Month Odds
December 2020 +650
January 2021 -300
February 2021 +350

Odds taken on October 9th

Silver’s Best Guess

Speaking to Bob Costas last month, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver confirmed a likely 2021 start date for the NBA season. Crucially, Silver also pointed to the desire to play a complete, 82-game regular season with fans in home arenas. Such criteria, as noted by Silver, are unknowns at this point.

Silver said, “The goal for us next season is to play a standard season … an 82-game season and playoffs. And further, the goal would be to play games in home arenas in front of fans, but there’s still a lot that we need to learn.”

What Silver is aiming for next season is mirrored by the NBPA. Executive director of the player’s association, Michele Roberts, identified the ‘latter part of January’ or early February as possible start dates. Roberts claimed January would be the ‘absolute earliest’ – that comment is the main reason a December start is as long as +650. If Roberts and the players do not want the season to start in 2020, it’s simply not going to happen.

Players and League In Agreement

The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported of agreement between the NBA and the NBPA on an outline for next season. It will be a full schedule of games, likely with reduced travel and potentially with an allocated number of fans. Allowing fans into arenas is going to be a key part of discussions about the 2021 campaign.

Owners will obviously be desperate to bring in game day revenue. Different states will probably have different rules, changing what is possible in Texas compared to California or in Boston compared to Philadelphia. How does the NBA navigate this?

There are major financial decisions to be made before any basketball can be played, too. There’s still no date for free agency, for instance. There’s still no sense of what the cap will be or if teams will have to pay the luxury tax.

The NBA has a long way to go before they can confirm a start date for the 2021 season.

Second Wave of Virus Impending

In that time, COVID-19 continues to impact people’s lives across the USA. It is wreaking havoc in the NFL and in European soccer. The virus must be under some form of control before the league allows fans back into arenas. Second waves are well underway in Europe – the feasibility of playing sport without a bubble, traveling across the continent, is suspect at best.

Betting on the 2021 season to start in February looks a good bet right now.

As Roberts noted, a difficult winter could force it later. “If it’s later than that, if we have a terrible winter because the virus decides to reassert herself, that’s fine.”

The NBA has done a magnificent job to complete the 2019-20 season. As attention turns to the 2021 NBA championship odds, though, the league, owners and NBPA face another mammoth task to construct a safe, viable plan for next season.

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