On Tuesday, the NBA Board of Governors will meet, and it is expected to vote to make the league’s play-in tournament a permanent part of its postseason.
ESPN Sources: NBA’s Board of Governors is expected on Tuesday to approve the Play-In Tournament as a regular part of future league seasons. The Play-In had been voted on a year-to-year basis in past two seasons, but support exists to turn it into annual element of NBA structure.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 11, 2022
The play-in tournament was started in 2020 when the league was forced to pause the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it was a way to give teams that were beneath eighth place in their conference a way to make the playoffs and make up for the fact that a full 82 games didn’t get played.
The past two seasons, the NBA has kept the play-in tournament while tweaking its format, and it has gained popularity among some fans.
There is an argument to be made for it, as it dissuades some teams from tanking while adding a bit of excitement for fans right before the actual playoffs begin.
Of course, it also means more revenue for the teams participating in it, as well as the league itself.
However, the play-in tournament isn’t the greatest idea, and although the NBA would never do so because of the extra money it makes from it, it should get rid of it.
The Play-In Tournament Cheapens The Idea Of Making The Playoffs
The league adopted its modern playoff format in 1984, which involves eight teams from each conference qualifying for the postseason.
Some critics have always felt that such a format makes the NBA’s 82-game regular season less meaningful.
That is exactly what the play-in tournament is doing.
It could be argued that it gives mediocre teams a built-in excuse to be lazy and not have any real urgency until perhaps the All-Star break, as such teams can simply decide to start playing hard afterward and still make the playoffs.
It all translates into teams with poor records participating in the NBA’s “second season.”
— Larry C. Diehlman (@LarryDiehlman18) July 11, 2022
For example, the New Orleans Pelicans won the play-in tournament after finishing ninth in the Western Conference this past season with a mere 36-46 record.
Everyone wants to see the true eight best teams from each conference in the playoffs, not a squad that only decided to get serious in March and April, or one that is, for all intents and purposes, a lottery team.
The flip side of this argument, of course, is that the play-in tournament allows teams that have a sub-par record only because of key injuries early in the season to still get to the playoffs.
Does The Play-In Tournament Really Prevent Tanking?
The play-in tournament pits seeds seven through 10 in each conference, which limits the impact it can have on tanking.
Teams such as those that are on the bubble may not spend the entire season tanking anyway, as they will often start the schedule believing they can make the playoffs if things break right.
That leaves five teams in each conference that will definitely not be in the postseason, and most of those teams won’t have a real shot at making the play-in tournament, therefore they could choose to tank.
A better way to de-incentivize tanking would be to change the weighted odds in the draft lottery and perhaps even give each team in the lottery an equal chance of getting the first pick.