Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Report: NBA expected to permanently adopt play-in tournaments

Grizzlies and Trail Blazers in NBA play-in game

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA - AUGUST 15: Jusuf Nurkic #27 of the Portland Trail Blazers tips off against Jonas Valanciunas #17 of the Memphis Grizzlies during the first quarter in the Western Conference play-in game one at The Field House at ESPN Wide World Of Sports Complex on August 15, 2020 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Getty Images

Play-in tournaments already feels like a permanent part of the NBA schedule.

The league held a play-in last year. The league will hold play-in tournaments this year. NBA commissioner Adam Silver wants to hold play-ins annually.

However, the current version of the play-in was approved for only this season.

Howard Beck of Sports Illustrated:

But given the impact it’s already made, league sources expect easy approval to make it permanent.

Before even occurring, the play-in has been a smashing success. It has significantly improved competitiveness in the regular season.

Teams near the 6th/7th-place line are competing to finish top six and directly qualify for the playoffs. Teams in range of 9th and 10th place are competing to make the play-in. Even teams near the 7-10 range are competing for higher seeds within the play-in tournaments.

With 20 – rather than just 16 – teams advancing to the postseason and even more teams in range of those top 10 spots in each conference, there’s more incentive not to tank. The high number of teams that pivoted into tanking ruined so many late-season games in prior years.

And we haven’t even gotten to the six single-elimination play-in games that will be thrilling on their own.

That said, tanking still exists. Though it has taken longer, some teams are still falling out of the postseason race. At that point, they’re incentivized to improve their draft position through losing. The play-in reduces, but far from eliminates, the number of throw-away games. So, there’s still more that could be done.

But the play-in is a significant step in the right direction.

Even Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who called the play-in tournament an “enormous mistake,” focused on this season’s unique circumstances and sounded open to future play-ins.

Nearly everyone likes this format – except the teams in seventh and eighth place. But by the time they know their spot in the standings, they probably will have already voted to make play-in tournaments permanent.