The NBA is inching ever-closer to resuming the 2019-20 season, but the league still has to get approval from owners and the Players Association on a playoff format. It appears, however, the league will do whatever it takes to ensure a certain rookie can play in the postseason.
According to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, the NBA will "make sure" that rookie phenom Zion Williamson will be a participant in the playoffs, even though the New Orleans Pelicans are on the outside looking in in the current eight teams per conference format.
You can't necessarily be surprised by this news. The NBA was banking on Williamson playing a hefty amount of games in his rookie season. He singlehandedly created massive spikes in college basketball viewership in his lone season at Duke. But the NBA's plan was hindered after Williamson missed the first three months of the campaign due to knee surgery.
In 19 games this season, Williamson averaged 23.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.2 assists. leading the Pelicans to a 10-9 record in that span. Once the season was halted due to the spread of COVID-19, the Pelicans sat in tenth place in the Western Conference, a mere 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the final playoff spot.
Reports surfaced that the league has already tabled plans of a play-in tournament and a World Cup-type group stage to its teams. Either way, the reported cutoff of playoff eligibility will include the likes of New Orleans, at the very least.