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16-team playoff bracket among four scenarios being considered [UPDATE]

With a ‘good chance’ the NBA opts for a 16-team format in the postseason, we break down what the matchups would look like.

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James dribbles the ball as LA Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard defends in the first half at Staples Center.  Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

UPDATE: May 29, 3:17 p.m. — The NBA discussed four different scenarios for a return to play during Friday’s Board of Governors meeting, per The Athletic’s Shams Charania.

The NBA is heading toward a return and there are reports that the League will go right into the postseason. If the NBA Playoffs are how the League brings back basketball, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst suggested Monday morning that there’s a ‘good chance’ it’s a 16-team format with seeding 1-16. Let’s take a look at what the bracket would give us and the potential first-round matchups:

NBA Playoffs: 16-team bracket

Bucks (1) vs. Magic (16)
Heat (8) vs. Thunder (9)

Lakers (2) vs. Nets (15)
Jazz (7) vs. Rockets (10)

Raptors (3) vs. Grizzlies (14)
Nuggets (6) vs. Pacers (11)

Clippers (4) vs. Mavericks (13)
Celtics (5) vs. 76ers (12)

So assuming it’s similar to the NCAA Tournament bracket format, this is what the matchups would look like for the first round and how the second round could shake out. As you can see, there are a ton of appealing matchups that could happen.

The first matchup to circle is Celtics-76ers in the 5-12 — which is sooooo fitting considering the Sixers could even be favored in this series. We’d get a natural 12-5 upset in the first! Two division rivals who would have been meeting in the first round in the old format. It’d be interesting to see how the Sixers look with a 100% Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.

Clippers-Mavs is going to be fun if that’s what we get. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George vs. Luka Doncic. The Lakers-Nets series could get interesting if Kevin Durant does decide to return. The Nets have shot down rumors that KD is ready to go and will return from his ruptured Achilles. We’ve seen video of Durant and he looks 100% but Brooklyn doesn’t want to risk anything on a throw-away season. You’ve got to think they’re reconsidering their original stance knowing KD would be coming back in July and against LeBron James and the Lakers.

If the Lakers get past the Nets and the Rockets take out the Jazz, we get Lakers-Rockets in the second round. James Harden and Russell Westbrook vs. LeBron and Anthony Davis would be a fun matchup. Ultimate small ball against the new Showtime. We may not see many mixed matchups between conferences in this format, too. It feels pretty organic for the League to bring the playoffs back in this format, now let’s see if it’s 7-game series.

Hypothetically, if these are the playoff matchups for the first round, let’s go over some picks really fast. We’ll start with Bucks-Magic and work our way down. Let’s assume that these are all 7-game series.

Bucks (1) vs. Magic (16) — Milwaukee in 4
Heat (8) vs. Thunder (9) — Miami in 6

Lakers (2) vs. Nets (15) — Los Angeles in 4*
Jazz (7) vs. Rockets (10) — Houston in 6

Raptors (3) vs. Grizzlies (14) — Toronto in 5
Nuggets (6) vs. Pacers (11) — Denver in 5

Clippers (4) vs. Mavericks (13) — Los Angeles in 6
Celtics (5) vs. 76ers (12) — Sixers in 7

*This is basically so that in the event that Kevin Durant DOES return for Brooklyn, this pick would change drastically.