Alex Len’s absence Saturday night marked the first time this season the Toronto Raptors have lost a player due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols. They’ve been one of the lucky teams so far, surviving the first 12 games of the season with little to no on-court pandemic interference. That can’t be said for everyone though.
The early part of this season has been plagued by COVID-19 outbreaks throughout the NBA. Over the past two days alone four NBA games have been postponed as an increasing number of players test positive for the virus or are deemed too high a risk to play. It’s already led to numerous NBA rule changes with the potential for roster expansion on the way if the virus continues to disrupt the league, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
“Yeah, I’m in favor, certainly,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said of the idea. “When you’re losing players, protocols, and teams are losing multiple players, and games are being postponed etc, it probably pushes me more in favor of it, yeah.”
Right now roster expansion would do little to impact the Raptors’ rotation. Nurse is already having enough trouble trying to figure out his current 10-man bench, adding another low-end bench player doesn’t seem like it would make that much of an impact.
That being said, teams need to prepare for the doomsday scenario the Philadelphia 76ers were dealt two weeks ago when his active roster was cut to just seven players against Denver. The 76ers officially had five players out due to the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols another three, including Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, out for various other ailments.
Hopefully, the Raptors are never faced with such a situation, but even their first bout with COVID-19 protocols this season is a reminder of what the future may hold. Those roster spots might not seem valuable right now, but if the pandemic worsens, an extra spot or two could become very, very valuable.