Play-in tournaments already feels like a permanent part of the NBA schedule.
However, the current version of the play-in was approved for only this season.
But given the impact it’s already made, league sources expect easy approval to make it permanent.
Before even occurring, the play-in has been a smashing success. It has significantly improved competitiveness in the regular season.
Teams near the 6th/7th-place line are competing to finish top six and directly qualify for the playoffs. Teams in range of 9th and 10th place are competing to make the play-in. Even teams near the 7-10 range are competing for higher seeds within the play-in tournaments.
With 20 – rather than just 16 – teams advancing to the postseason and even more teams in range of those top 10 spots in each conference, there’s more incentive not to tank. The high number of teams that pivoted into tanking ruined so many late-season games in prior years.
And we haven’t even gotten to the six single-elimination play-in games that will be thrilling on their own.
That said, tanking still exists. Though it has taken longer, some teams are still falling out of the postseason race. At that point, they’re incentivized to improve their draft position through losing. The play-in reduces, but far from eliminates, the number of throw-away games. So, there’s still more that could be done.
But the play-in is a significant step in the right direction.
Nearly everyone likes this format – except the teams in seventh and eighth place. But by the time they know their spot in the standings, they probably will have already voted to make play-in tournaments permanent.