Over the past three months, the NBA's league office has exhausted itself in stitching together a comprehensive plan to conclude the 2019-20 season. In the front offices of the league's 30 franchises, though, a more complicated problem has clouded the horizon:

What will the 2020-21 season look like?

Even as the NBA establishes its bubble in Orlando, Florida, several dates are rushing toward it. Owners have established Dec. 1 as the target to start next season's games.

But the date of more immediate concern to teams is Oct. 18 -- the proposed start of free agency. By then, all financial matters for this season and projections for next will need to be known.

What is known around league circles at present is that the league must clear three massive hurdles to begin next season: The first is currently being navigated: how to safely play in a world with coronavirus.
The next two are equally complex: brokering a deal between owners and players on how to financially operate, and how 30 teams facing different market conditions will share money to keep the entire league afloat.

"The truth is, things are changing so fast that, when it comes to next season, the best we can do is put a stake in the ground and make a guess," an Eastern Conference team president said. "The reality is nobody is probably going to operate in the black next season.

"The only question is how much each of us are going to lose."

When the 2019-20 season was halted by the coronavirus pandemic, approximately 75% of the regular season had been played. Though the lack of playoff ticket revenue is leading to substantial losses now, teams had already collected billions in gate, arena and sponsorship revenue. At the moment, it is unclear if next season's games will be in home arenas, let alone have fans in attendance, making revenue projections impossible.