The NBA adopted a new playoff format this season with a play-in tournament for the final two playoff seeds in each conference.
The tournament breaks down as follows:
Game 1: No. 7 vs. No. 8, winner receives the No. 7 seed
Game 2: No. 9 vs. No. 10, winner advances to play loser of Game 1
Game 3: Loser of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2 for the No. 8 seed
According to the NBA’s executive vice president of basketball strategy and analytics Evan Wasch, the tournament is expected to become permanent, as 24 teams are still in playoff contention this season.
“Twenty-four is the highest we’ve ever had, in the history of the league, with a month left,” Wasch said.
The new format allows 10 teams from each conference to have a chance to find themselves into the eight playoff spots at the end of the season, which gives more teams hope as the season reaches its final weeks.
“The future of the play-in tournament, which was adopted on a one-year trial basis, is a huge key,” Sports Illustrated’s Howard Beck wrote. “But given the impact it’s already made, league sources expect easy approval to make it permanent.”
According to Wasch, the league is pleased with the amount of teams in contention and the lack of tanking this season.
“Based on what we’ve seen in terms of team behavior the last few years—the competitiveness on the court and the competitiveness in the standings—we’re pleased with the early results of both the lottery change and the play-in tournament,” Wasch said.
While the play-in tournament certainly incentivizes getting a top-six seed to avoid having to play-in for a spot, it appears the league is ready to adopt it as the normal playoff format for future seasons.