NBA commissioner Adam Silver is hopeful a new collective bargaining agreement between the league and players can be approved before Friday's deadline.
If not, he said the league's plan would then be to opt out of the current CBA.
The NBA and National Basketball Players Association are negotiating ahead of a deadline set for midnight on Friday that would allow either side to opt out of the current CBA on June 30.
The current CBA expires at the conclusion of the 2023-24 season.
"I certainly can foresee one getting done and I hope we do get one done," Silver said on Wednesday during his news conference at the conclusion of a two-day meeting of the league's Board of Governors.
The sides have already extended the deadline on two previous occasions – once in December and another time in February – and Silver said the league won't extend it again if there is no deal by Friday night.
"If we don't have a deal by this Friday night and nothing else were to happen, yes, it would be our intention to opt out of the current deal," Silver said.
The two sides have been negotiating a new CBA for more than a year with spending limits and player health being specific issues, and Silver said progress has been made.
"I think both sides understand that this is a window of opportunity that we should try not to miss," Silver said. "Because, if we don't have the deal done this Friday, the next real deadline is June 30, but that's the very end of the season.
"The whole idea behind these early deadlines (is) to try to avoid going right up to the line."
While Silver said the league would exercise the opt-out option if a deal isn't reached by Friday, NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio said the players don't intend to opt out.
"The March 31 deadline is an important benchmark, and we are doing everything in our power to reach an agreement with the league," Tremaglio said in a statement.
"If we don't have a deal and the league decides to opt out, it will be disappointing considering all the work both sides have put into the negotiations, and the fair nature of our requests. As far as our fans are concerned, it will be business as usual. Games will continue uninterrupted."
Although there is a midnight Friday deadline, Silver said if progress is being made and the two sides are close, it is possible the deadline could be pushed back a few days.
"I could imagine if it came midnight Friday night, and we were having a productive discussion and somebody said, ‘We could use a few more days,' we would agree to a few more days," Silver said. "But that's more of a hypothetical."