The idea of the NBA adding a midseason tournament to its annual schedule first came about earlier this summer, when commissioner Adam Silver said at a Board of Governors press conference in Las Vegas that it was something the competition committee believed was a real possibility.
“One of the things that I didn’t mention before that the competition committee talked about and seemed excited about is potentially some sort of midseason tournament,” Silver said. “Very early days in the discussion of that, but we’re looking at other opportunities in the league to create excitement.
“As one of our general managers said at the meeting, there’s very few things that you can win in the NBA. I mean, when you think about European soccer, for example, they have the FA Cup and they have other tournaments throughout the season, so I could imagine if we were to look at some sort of mid‑season tournament I would imagine doing something in Vegas. This would be a terrific neutral site location.”
While it’s still in the very early stages of planning, it appears to be something that the league is strongly considering.
In a survey sent out to its fans via the NBA Fan Forum program, the league had a number of questions regarding the structure and implementation of a midseason tournament.
– Concrete details of how to launch something like this remain scarce, but the league seems to have figured a few things out. The tournament would take place in the middle of the season (January/February), it would be single-elimination style, and the final round would likely take place during All-Star weekend.
– The league seems to be all ears in terms of which teams and how many of them should be included. The survey asked which matchups would be of the most interest, how many teams should be in the tournament, whether or not international teams like Real Madrid or Maccabi Tel Aviv should be invited, and when the first round matchups for the tournament should be determined. A lot to figure out, here, to be sure.
– The timing of the tournament was narrowed to two options: Should it be played continuously over a 10-day period, or spread out a bit more, with first round games followed by regular season games before the later rounds are played? To me, playing it continuously is the only way that would make sense.
– The topic of prizes for the winner of such a tournament came up, and the initial options on the table are a guaranteed spot in the playoffs, a playoff seeding reward such as home court advantage in the first round, or a financial prize to the winning team and its players.
This was not brought up during the survey, but using a tournament like this to aid in how draft picks are allocated might be an interesting concept. Have the eight worst teams in the league record-wise at the time the tournament begins compete, with the winner either getting the number one overall pick in the following NBA Draft, or receiving the highest odds of landing the top pick via the Draft Lottery system that’s already in place. Teams could no longer tank to get the top overall pick, since loading a roster with bad or not-yet-ready players would leave a team too weak to beat the others in tournament play.
– The final question asked was whether or not the tournament should replace the All-Star game entirely. It should be obvious that this is a bad idea, but in case it isn’t: That idea is terrible.
There’s a lot to sort out here, and a lot to process in order to do this in a way that wouldn’t throw the regular season into complete chaos.
One thing most agree on is that there are too many regular season games that end up forcing players to play when they aren’t at their competitive best, either by being at a disadvantage on the second night of a back-to-back set, or by being in the middle of a stretch that has a team playing its fourth game in five nights.
If a tournament could be done properly, it would be a huge revenue-generator for the league’s owners — which might just allow them to be open to the idea of shedding some regular season games in exchange.
It’s clear that the league isn’t yet close to knowing exactly how this would work, and again, there’s so much to figure out that we might be several years away from actually seeing this take place. But it’s equally clear that this is something that’s seriously being considered.