The NBA adopted a play-in for the 2020 bubble. The league then introduced a larger play-in tournament for the 2020-21 season. The same play-in-tournament format was used again in 2021-22.
Already, the play-in tournaments feel like a regular part of the NBA calendar.
But they have been approved only on a year-to-year basis.
That’ll soon change, though.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
ESPN Sources: NBA’s Board of Governors is expected on Tuesday to approve the Play-In Tournament as a regular part of future league seasons. The Play-In had been voted on a year-to-year basis in past two seasons, but support exists to turn it into annual element of NBA structure.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) July 11, 2022
The play-in tournaments have been a rousing success. They increase interest in the regular season and create six high-stakes games to begin the postseason.
The biggest ongoing step for getting everyone onboard with the play-in tournament: People realizing the teams that finish with the seventh- and eighth-best records in each conference aren’t entitled to playoff berths. Just because they were from 1984-2019 doesn’t mean they still should be. Teams must now finish top six to directly qualify for the playoffs. It’s a higher bar, which places greater emphasis on the regular season – which is generally welcomed.
There are also significant advantages to entering the play-in tournament as the No. 7 seed rather than No. 8 seed, No. 8 seed rather than No. 9 seed, No. 9 seed rather than No. 10 seed. Again, that adds welcome intrigue to the regular season.
The NBA was always headed toward permanently instituting play-in tournaments. The Timberwolves’ overjoyed play-in celebration and Pelicans’ satisfying rise from the basement – through the play-in tournament – into the playoffs only added momentum.
As for the league’s desired other tournament, an in-season tournament… that’s a tougher sell.