The fight for the 10 seed isn’t going anywhere.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Howard Beck, it should be only a matter of time before the NBA’s new play-in tournament becomes officially part of the league calendar.
The future of the play-in tournament, which was adopted on a one-year trial basis, is a huge key. But given the impact it’s already made, league sources expect easy approval to make it permanent.
Originally introduced in the Orlando Bubble under slightly different guidelines, the league decided to give the revised postseason format another go in the 2020-21 season. The 2019-20 model pitted the No. 9 seed against the No. 8 seed, forcing the No. 9 to win two games in a row to surpass their higher-ranked opponent in the standings. However, this matchup took place only if the No. 9 was within four games of the No. 8 seed. Due to this rule, the West was the only conference to have a play-in tournament game, and the No. 9 Grizzlies lost to the No. 8 Trail Blazers in Game 1.
This season, the league expanded the play-in tournament to feature seeds 7-10 and it will work as followed:
• No. 7 vs. No. 8
• No. 9 vs. No. 10
• Winner of No. 7 vs. No. 8 earns No. 7 seed
• Loser of No. 7 vs. No. 8 will play the winner of No. 9 vs. No. 10 once for official No. 8 seed
This is expected to be the format that is approved as a mainstay in the NBA’s postseason format. Of course, if things go poorly in this season’s trial run, there is always a possibility that the plan is eliminated. However, with the league invested in pushing teams away from tanking, it’s hard to picture anything stopping the league from approving this.
In many ways, the play-in tournament has already proven to be a success. Even if the games fall flat, it’s clear that more teams have become invested in competing. The Bulls were a perfect example of this at the trade deadline, adding high-impact talent in hopes of making a late push (which, unfortunately, fell flat). We also saw teams that could have otherwise been sellers sit on their hands in hopes of competing down the stretch (Kings, Pacers, and Pelicans ((to an extent)).
So this all begs the question … How would you feel if these rules were here to stay?