Schlatter: The NBA’s brand new in-season tournament explained

NBA in-season tournament graphic. - Graphics Editor / Julia Quennessen

For the first time in the history of the National Basketball Association (NBA), an in-season tournament is being implemented ahead of the 2023-24 season. This never-seen-before format kicks off on Friday, Nov. 3, and features two different sections, group play and the knockout rounds.

Back in July, fifteen teams from the Western Conference were divided into three groups based on the win-loss percentage from the previous season. Same goes for the Eastern Conference, also consisting of three groups with five teams each.

The divisions are as follows:

  • East A: Philadelphia 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers, and
    Detroit Pistons
  • East B: Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Washington Wizards, and
    Charlotte Hornets
  • East C: Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, and Orlando Magic
  • West A: Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz, and Portland Trail
  • West B: Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, New Orleans Pelicans, Dallas Mavericks, and
    Houston Rockets
  • West C: Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma
    City Thunder, and San Antonio Spurs

The group play stages range from Nov. 3 to Nov. 28, and will see games played on four different “tournament nights.” Only eight teams will advance into the knockout round: the leading team from
each division the next best team from each respective conference.

Single-elimination games will then occur, with the winners advancing to the next part of the bracket and the losers being eliminated. The knockout round will begin on Dec. 4, and the tournament ends on Dec. 9.

All games played during the tournament will count towards the 82-game regular season tally except the championship game. A prize pool will be available to players whose teams qualify for the knockout round, and the prizes increase the deeper a team goes into the tournament. An announcement for the Most Valuable Player and All-Tournament Team will follow the conclusion of the event.

After the NBA announced their new load management rules where teams can only rest one “star” a night, I believe this is another incentive to keep players on the court. One common complaint for a few years now is that players aren’t playing in enough games. Fans spend their hard-earned money to go to games, support their favorite teams, buy merchandise, etc., and all they want is to watch their team’s stars play.

With the addition of accolades and money, most stars will suit up as much as they can, as opposed to resting. More competitive, star-studded basketball in the regular season not only entices the fanbases, but the NBA can look to profit, as well.

It will be interesting to see how the addition of the in-season tournament plays out.

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