Why The NBA's Play-In Tourney Is Actually A Good Thing
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The NBA playoff format will have a different look this season. Usually, the top 8 teams in each conference make the playoffs. However, the NBA will introduce the play-in tournament format this season. The top 6 teams will make the playoffs in the East and West, respectively, while the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th seed will duke it out, with the loser is eliminated from playoff contention.
While this new idea has gotten some pushback from some NBA players, I'm going to try and shed some light on why this tourney is actually a good idea. So here we go.
Even with a shortened season this year, the season still feels a tad long. However, instead of meaninglessly lop-sided games to finish out the season, we can look forward to a final stretch with a ton of teams still vying for the remaining two spots in each conference. The Bulls and Raptors would be toast as the 11th and 12th seeds in a normal year. However, their hopes of making the playoffs are still intact.
Essentially, more meaningful games and more opportunities will help curb the trends of load management and tanking. Simply put, if 24 of the 30 teams are still in contention for the playoffs come the final few weeks of the season, it gives lesser teams incentive to play the season out, while it would hinder the stronger teams seeding to sit their stars. Imagine a world where the 11th and 1st place teams still have to win in the final week of the season. Blessed!
This expanded format also lays favour to more star power in the limelight. Sure, the NBA isn’t lacking in that area, but imagine not having Steph Curry or Russell Westbrook and Zion Williamson in the playoffs despite being on weaker teams? This format could at least give us a few more games to watch the players we know and love. And with the playoffs on the line, you never know what could happen.
One last point I wanted to touch on was the lack of competitiveness in the early rounds of the playoffs. The one thing the NBA has consistently struggled with within their current playoff format is exciting early-round matchups. Of course, the NBA can’t help that some teams are just flat out better than others. However, this play-in format allows for some added excitement given the evenness of the teams competing.
Lillard against Curry, Lamelo against the Wizards, or even LeBron taking on Zion, they all bring the pain, and that’s what the traditional format lacks. Remember how epic that one-game playoff was between the Grizzlies and the Blazers last season to determine who makes the playoffs? It was one of the most anticipated games of the bubble, and we could be seeing more of that this year.
Instead of downplaying the excitement that this tournament will no doubt bring, I hope the fans can acknowledge that the NBA may be onto something here. This 2021 season might be the most exciting finish to an NBA season in a long time, and the play-in tournament is a big part of that. Players and coaches might not like it. But for the fans and the league alike, I believe this will be beneficial. So come join in on the fun, and hop on the bandwagon!