Of all the NBA’s proposals to change the schedule and postseason format, an in-season tournament is the most radical.
The NBA – and all major North American sports – have made everyone accustomed to a one-season, one-championship model. We crack jokes when teams raise banners for lesser accomplishments.
What will make anyone care about an in-season tournament?
To incentivize teams, league sources told me the NBA could make each victory in the single-elimination knockout tournament worth double toward the regular-season standings, or it could eliminate the win-loss system and install a points system similar to the ones used by EPL, the World Cup, and the NHL. But it’s unclear what the incentives will be in the final proposal; virtually any idea you can imagine has been discussed and debated during meetings.
That would motivate teams in the in-season tournament. But it’d still be in service of the main prize at the end of the playoffs. Winning the in-season tournament wouldn’t be its own reward.
This format would also raise competitive-balance issues. Would teams faces comparable opponents during the in-season tournament? Would relying so heavily on such a small number of games place too much emphasis on injuries that happen to sideline players during that time?
Again, these questions are so important because I think the postseason title will remain everyone’s exclusive focus – which is the underlying problem for an in-season tournament.