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NBA Play-In Tournament Explained

The National Basketball Association (NBA) will be experimenting with a new play-in tournament prior to the playoffs.

Commissioner Adam Silver has not been afraid to test out changes in the past, such as the reformatted NBA All-Star game.

With the NBA season already being shortened by 10 games, Silver decided it would be a good time to try out something new.

Every team has been affected by COVID-19 this season, as they did not use a bubble like they did last year for the end of the season and the playoffs.

Since key players missed games due to COVID-19 and may have impacted playoff hopes, the play-in tournament aims to give teams on the verge a chance to get in the playoffs.

Rather than the top eight seeds in each conference being locked into the playoffs, seeds seven through 10 will participate in the play in.

The rules are as follows:

  • The seven and eight seeds will play one game against each other
  • The winner of that game will claim the seven seed in the playoffs
  • The nine and 10 seeds will face off in one game, the loser is eliminated
  • The loser of the seven versus eight game will play the winner of the nine versus 10, winner claims the eight seed in the playoffs

The rest of the playoffs will follow the traditional format once the seven and eight seeds are determined by the play-in.

Feelings about the play-in are mixed amongst players and fans alike.

The Spurs, Grizzlies, Hornets and Pacers have an extra chance to get in. On the other side, the Lakers, Warriors, Celtics and Wizards have to fight for a spot that would normally be guaranteed.

Lakers point guard LeBron James voiced his opinion on the new tournament after it became apparent the Lakers would be in the play-in. “Whoever came up with that shit needs to be fired,” James said.

This comment opposes James’s past opinion on the play-in. “Let those four teams play each other. and then whoever got the best record out of that, maybe the final two teams that have the best record play each other for a game off to make the eighth seed,” James said in March, 2020. The Lakers were the top seed at that time.

It seems that people are for the idea if their teams are safely positioned in the top six seeds, or on the fringe at the nine or 10 seeds, but are against it if they are the seven or eight seed.

The play-in tournament will begin tomorrow and conclude on Friday, May 21.


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