Last season, the NBA announced they would be introducing a play-in tournament to its schedule. It brought extra entertainment to fans as teams were pitted against each other in an attempt to snag the last playoff spot.
However, it hasn’t been all positive as it brought some new problems to NBA franchises. The competitiveness of the mini-tournament was electric last season, however with its fair share of issues, whether it is actually a good idea is unclear.
The play-in tournament was introduced last season. The Western Conference had some phenomenal sides who exploded in Orlando. Therefore, NBA franchise owners unanimously agreed to find an alternative to make things fair for all. They came up with the play-in game, which would pit the 8th and 9th seed against each other. This one-game series was fought between the Memphis Grizzlies and Portland Trailblazers. Damian Lillard‘s side pulled through and secured a playoff spot.
The tournament was re-introduced this year. However, the new variation includes the 7th through 10th seed. After the last scheduled game, the 7th and 8th seed will play as the 9th and 10th go at it. The winner of the first game will immediately take the 7th seed while the loser will face the winner of the 9th vs 10th matchup. Finally, the winner of this intense game will be named the 8th seed.
Why The Play-In Game Should Be Used
The play-in game offers some extra motivation to the struggling teams. It allows lower seeds to have an opportunity to make the playoffs that they wouldn’t have had in earlier seasons. Although it forces a larger amount of teams to be involved in the playoffs, it keeps more teams from illegally tanking. If there’s still a chance to steal a playoff spot despite being far off the eighth seed, teams will refuse to force losses. Any team can make the playoffs and a franchise would have to be in a very deep hole to lose all hope for the play-in tournament.
Along with this extra motivation for teams, fans get to watch some very entertaining matchups. Very even sides are pitted against each other where the slightest slip-up can result in a failed season. In the first season of the play-in tournament, the Grizzlies and Trailblazers went at it in a nail-biting matchup. Putting two scrappy sides who have fought all season long is bound to be interesting. The play-in tournament can guarantee electrifying games.
Why The Play-In Tournament Should Be Called Off
Although it seems like a no-brainer to fans that it should continue, it severely hurts teams. Now, with the added stress for teams that they can never be comfortable in their playoff spot, they’re forced to overuse better players. Teams can never feel secure in their place and must always be wary of the fact they could be knocked into an unpredictable tournament. This has resulted in an overload of injuries in the NBA this season.
Several members of the Dallas Mavericks’ association have publicly questioned the play-in tournament already: “I don’t understand the idea of the play-in [tournament],” Luka Doncic said. “You play 72 games to get in the playoffs. Then maybe you lose two in a row and you’re out of the playoffs. I don’t see the point of that”. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban added on. “The worst part of this approach is that it doubles the stress of the compressed schedule,” Cuban said. “Rather than playing for a playoff spot and being able to rest players as the standings become clearer, teams have to approach every game as a playoff game to either get into or stay in the top six”.
The consequences of missing the top six can be devastating to teams. Considering the struggles players and teams face due to the radical new idea, canceling it as a whole may be inevitable.
Essentially, the question is should the NBA prioritize the fans’ enjoyment or the health of NBA players. Once it’s brought down to this, it seems inevitable that the play-in tournament deserves to be canceled. It has forced far too many injuries this season and has left players exhausted.
However, the NBA could potentially bring back the earlier model that only threatened the 8th seed with the play-in tournament and let the 9th seed face them. This could relieve stress off of teams as only one side will be victim to the high-pressure tournament. However, removing the current version will be necessary to further improve the NBA.