US basketball

How does the NBA bubble format work?

Delfin Dioquino
Out of the 30 NBA teams, 22 teams will see action as the league resumes its season in a bubble

After more than 4 months on the shelves, the NBA season officially resumes on July 31 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

To ensure the safety of its players, the NBA created a bubble at the Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, where all of the games – both seeding and playoff – will be played.

Here is how the new NBA format works:

Participating teams

Out of the 30 NBA teams, 22 teams will see action in Orlando.

Comprising these 22 teams are the top 8 teams from each of the Eastern and Western Conferences and 6 teams that are within 6 games of the last playoff spots in either conference.

The Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, and Orlando Magic are the top 8 teams from the East.

In the top 8 from the West are the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, and Dallas Mavericks.

Meanwhile, the Washington Wizards, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs, and Phoenix Suns are the remaining 6 teams who managed to qualify for the NBA bubble.

Tournament format

Each of the 22 teams will play 8 seeding games that were selected from their remaining regular season assignments.

For example, the Celtics have the Bucks, Blazers, Heat, Nets, Raptors, Magic, Grizzlies, and Wizards as their opponents in their seeding games. (READ: Celtics 2020 playoff preview: Beantown is back)

Afterwards, the top 7 teams from each conference with the highest winning percentage from their regular season and seeding games combined will qualify for the NBA playoffs.

For the 8th seed teams from each conference, they will only automatically advance to the playoffs if they are more than 4 games ahead of the 9th seed teams.

Otherwise, the 8th and 9th seed teams will duke it out in a play-in, with the 8th seed teams enjoying a win-once or twice-to-beat incentive.

When the 16 postseason teams are determined, the playoffs will follow the traditional format of having a best-of-seven series for each of the 4 rounds.

The seeding games are slated to finish on August 14, with the playoffs starting on August 17 and ending with the NBA Finals in October. (READ: SCHEDULE: 2020 NBA seeding games, Philippine time)

Unique setting

Players of qualified teams are not required to compete in Orlando.

Among the players who decided not to play in the NBA bubble for various reasons are the Lakers’ Avery Bradley, Blazers’ Trevor Ariza, and Nets’ DeAndre Jordan.

The absence of key players forced other teams to look elsewhere, with the Lakers signing JR Smith and the Nets acquiring the services of Jamal Crawford, to name a few.

Participating players will stay in hotels at the Disney World Resort for the duration of the tournament.

Since the bubble was created to curb the spread of the virus, fans are barred from attending games live. –

Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.