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Report: NBA could give extra draft pick to in-season-tournament winner

NBA commissioner Adam Silver

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JUNE 20: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks during the 2019 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center on June 20, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

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The NBA wants everyone to care about an in-season tournament.

The big question: How?

The league has plenty of ideas – payouts for winning players, counting tournament games extra in the standings and apparently draft incentives.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

This will entice front offices. This will entice fans.

It probably won’t entice players.

Motivating players is tricky. Even a combination of mechanisms – say larger payouts and an extra draft pick – won’t necessarily yield productive results.

The league increased payouts for the winning All-Star team, and that exhibition game still didn’t find traction. The top players – the real difference makers – already make so much money. It’s hard to offer enough to change their behavior.

Beyond those select few stars extremely secure in their jobs, marginal players might be disincentivized by the prospect of a bonus pick. Who wants to help their team replace them?

There are also competitive-balance issues. The whole draft system exists to reward teams at the bottom. The NBA wants to give bad teams a boost in building back up. Giving an extra pick to a team good enough to win the in-season tournament works counter to that goal.

This is also another fix that doesn’t get to the root of the problem: The in-season tournament seems relatively meaningless for its own sake. Nobody will cherish an in-season-tournament title. The extra pick would be worthwhile only for advancing a team toward a postseason championship – you know, the one that counts.