The NBA Play-In Tournament Is A Slam Dunk For The League

It’s hard to side with the billion dollar companies, especially when that company is the NBA. Nine times out of ten, I will support teams and players throughout the league. However, this is the only time I defend the league. I support the NBA Play-In tournament.

Last year, the NBA set up the Play-In tournament to determine the final seeds for each conference. The game of play between Memphis Grizzlies and the Portland Trail Blazers was a slam dunk for the league. The excitement surrounding a game to enter the playoffs with a “win-win-everything” mentality was the perfect pre-NBA pre-play drink.

Before the 2020-2021 season, the NBA Board of Governors voted unanimously to set up the Play-In tournament on a one-year basis. This year, Seeds 7-10 from each conference will participate in the tournament from May 18-21.

The rules:

  • 7v8 – Winner advances as seed 7 to play seed 2
  • 9 v 10 – Winner moves forward to play the loser of 7 v 8, loser comes home
  • 7-on-8 loser vs. 9-on-10 winner – Winner advances to play seed 8 to play seed 1

For the fans, this is a win-win scenario. Who doesn’t want to watch competitive basketball where the stakes are high? These games are important, which should translate to playoff style basketball on the court.

For the league, the Play-Tournament is obviously a huge victory. The tournament will dominate the topic of conversation in the sports world that week. More importantly, the tournament gives more teams a chance and prevents fewer teams from tanking. However, let’s call it that. To quote Shane McMahon, “Here is the money.” The league created the tournament to make money, plain and simple.

The only negative voices seem to come from the teams themselves. They sing a different tune. Concerns about injuries, motivation and fairness are the main reasons for dissent.

It all started when Draymond Green said the Play-In matches were “not the real playoffs” and that they don’t “motivate” him. Fred vanvleet played on both sides of the fence, saying play-in games made “more sense for the bubble.”

The Mavericks were lined up in their opposition to the Play-In tournament. Luka Doncic don’t like how two games shouldn’t decide your fate after 72 games. Marc Cuban understands why the Play-In tournament exists but thinks it is a “huge mistake“Due to the compressed schedule.

Note that the only voices discussing the pitfalls of play-in matches are the teams vying for the 7-10 seeds. Is it just a matter of sour grapes?

If Cuban wants to complain about the compression timetable, I’m all ears. Most players believed that once the bubble ended, the league would start in January. Because of the money, the league pushed for a start to December.

Is there a correlation between a compressed schedule and injuries? Perhaps. A lot CEOs and team health managers blame the compressed schedule for an abundance of player injuries. That being said, there is fewer injuries to starters this year than last year according to NBA data.

Cuban is making fair points against the Play-In tournament, but it’s important to remember that he voted to make it happen. Cuban was part of the unanimous vote for the extended playoffs. The hindsight is 20/20 and Cuban admits he made a mistake. But, as Stan Van Gundy pointed out, “He (Cuban) pushed for it.”

Would the Mavs vote against the Play-In tournament if they were in the Top-6 with a chance to win the title? Probably not.

The Play-In tournament gives more teams hope of making the playoffs. Is that a false hope given that the Play-In winners will almost certainly lose to the top two seeds? Yes, but the championships (and rebellions) were built on hope.

With more teams vying for playoff spots, fewer teams will try to tank. I am not anti-tank. I’m a Knicks fan. The Knicks have tanked for three straight years. The bottom three teams in each conference should (and will) tank. But if you’re the 11-seeded wizards or the 11-seeded Pelicans, you should want to do the play-in game. The lottery backend will not solve your problems.

The stakes have been raised in the regular season thanks to the Play-In tournament. In most years, ranking battles usually involve teams looking to upgrade their seeds or all 9 seeds trying to climb and skip all 8 seeds. Now there could be 24 of the 32 teams vying for playoff spots. Competition is good for the league and for the fans.

If you still don’t believe in the Play-In tournament, imagine this scenario.

Steph Curry v Luka Doncic for the right to advance in the Play-In tournament.

That’s a good comment. This is a real world scenario that could occur as the Mavs and Warriors respectfully occupy the Seven and Nine Seeds.

More isn’t always better, but more competitive basketball with the best players in the world is something I will always support.

Do you support or oppose the NBA Play-In tournament? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @danny_giro.

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