It’s tough to side with billion-dollar corporations especially when that corporation is the NBA. Nine times out of ten, I’m going to support the teams and players over the league. However, this is the one time where I’m defending the league. I support the NBA Play-In Tournament.
Last year, the NBA installed the Play-In Tournament to determine the final seeds in each conference. The play-in game between the Memphis Grizzlies and the Portland Trail Blazers was a slam dunk for the league. The excitement around a game to enter the playoffs with a “winner-take-all” mentality was the perfect appetizer before the NBA Playoffs.
Before the 2020-2021 season, the NBA Board of Governors voted unanimously to install the Play-In Tournament on a one-year basis. This year seeds 7-10 in each conference will take part in the tournament from May 18-21.
- 7 v. 8 – Winner advances as the 7-seed to play the 2-seed
- 9 v. 10 – Winner advances to play the loser of the 7 v. 8, loser goes home
- The loser of 7 v. 8 v. the winner of 9 v. 10 – Winner advances to play the 8-seed to play the 1-seed
For fans, this is a win-win scenario. Who doesn’t want to watch competitive basketball where the stakes are high? These games matter, which should translate to hard-nose, playoff-style basketball on the court.
For the league, the Play-Tournament is obviously a huge win. The tournament will dominate the topic of conversation in the sports world that week. More importantly, the tournament gives more teams a shot and curtails fewer teams from tanking. However, let’s call it like it is. To quote Shane McMahon, “Here comes 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’re singing a different tune. Injury concerns, motivation, and fairness are the most prominent reasons for dissension.
It all started when Draymond Green said the Play-In games were “not the real playoffs” and they don’t “motivate” him. Fred VanVleet played both sides of the fence, saying the Play-In games made “more sense for the Bubble.”
The Mavericks were aligned in their opposition to the Play-In tournament. Luka Doncic doesn’t like how two games shouldn’t decide your fate after 72 games. Marc Cuban understands why the Play-In Tournament exists but believes it’s an “enormous mistake” because of the compressed schedule.
Notice how the only voices discussing the pitfalls of play-in games are those teams in contention for seeds 7-10. Is this just a case of sour grapes?
If Cuban wants to complain about the compressed schedule, I’m all ears. Most of the players thought once the Bubble ended, the league would start in January. Because of money, the league pushed for a December start.
Is there a correlation between a compressed schedule and injuries? Perhaps. Many general managers and team health officials blame the compressed schedule for an abundance of player injuries. That being said, there are fewer injuries to starters this year than there were last year according to NBA data.
Cuban makes some fair points against the Play-In Tournament, but it’s important to remember that he voted for it to happen. Cuban was a part of the unanimous vote for the extended postseason. 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 be speaking out against the Play-In Tournament if they were a Top-6 seed with a chance of winning the title? Probably not.
The Play-In Tournament gives more teams hope for making the playoffs. Is it false hope considering the Play-In winners will almost certainly lose to the top two seeds? Yes, but championships (and rebellions) were built on hope.
With more teams vying for playoff spots, fewer teams will try to tank. I am not anti-tanking. I’m a Knicks fan. The Knicks 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 11-seeded Pelicans, you should want to make the Play-In Game. The backend of the lottery won’t solve your problems.
The stakes have been raised in the regular season thanks to the Play-In Tournament. In most years, seeding battles typically involve teams looking to improve their seeds or the 9-seed trying to move up and jump the 8-seed. Now, there could be 24 out of 32 teams fighting for playoff spots. Competition is a good thing for the league and for the fans.
If you still don’t believe in the Play-In Tournament, imagine this scenario.
Steph Curry vs. Luka Doncic for the right to advance in the Play-In Tournament.
That’s a mic drop right comment. That’s a real scenario that might happen as the Mavs and Warriors occupy the seven and nine seeds respectfully.
More is not always better, but more competive 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.