An idea among league insiders reportedly is that the NBA could guarantee the winner of the league’s In-Season Tournament at least the No. 7 seed in the playoffs.
While that wouldn’t go into effect in the 2023-24 season, perhaps it could in the future. That would give the team that wins the In-Season Tournament (this season, it was the Los Angeles Lakers) two home games to earn its way into the playoffs if it doesn’t secure a spot during the regular season.
“While a top-6 berth was universally seen as a bridge too far among league insiders spoken to by ESPN, one idea that had more support was guaranteeing the winner of the tournament at least the seventh spot, meaning they would get two home games to earn their way into the playoffs,” ESPN’s Tim Bontemps wrote.
It would be an interesting way to incentivize teams to try to win the In-Season Tournament, as a guaranteed spot in the play-in tournament would be huge for a team that struggles in the regular season or deals with a key injury.
While every team would want to make the playoffs outright, this would be a nice backup plan to have that would give more value to the In-Season Tournament.
While giving teams a spot in the play-in tournament for winning the In-Season Tournament could be a nice incentive it does have one drawback.
“One pushback to that idea, though, is that it goes a bit against the idea of the play-in tournament, and what the league has done by giving teams incentive to push through the end of the regular season,” Bontemps wrote.
The Lakers defeated the Indiana Pacers in the In-Season Tournament championship game on Saturday night, giving the team a pretty solid financial incentive.
“There’s little doubt the financial incentives the league created — $500,000 for each player on the winning team, $200,000 each for runners-up, $100,000 each for the semifinal losers and $50,000 each for the quarterfinal losers — played an impact throughout the tournament,” Bontemps wrote.
The play-in tournament has made the end of the regular season in the NBA more exciting, as several teams have been alive to secure a berth in the play-in. The league certainly wouldn’t want to take that away.
It seems like the NBA is still looking for the best way to integrate – and incentivize – the In-Season Tournament, but the first edition seemed to be a success with the levels of play in the games.
Now, the focus for the Lakers and rest of the NBA turns to securing a spot in the playoffs to compete for an NBA title this season.