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NBA in-season tournament: When will it happen and what will it look like?

While the idea seems to have gerated quite a bit of interest, the key issues remain ‘what would it count for?’ and ‘what would you win?’

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 02: NBA commissioner Adam Silver speaks to the media prior to Game One of the 2022 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Boston Celtics at Chase Center on June 02, 2022 in San Francisco, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.   Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images/AFP
Thearon W. HendersonAFP

With news of a potential NBA In-Season Tournament, we take a look at what it’s all about, how it would work and what’s up for grabs for the teams that participate.

A look at the NBA’s In-Season Tournament for 2023-24 Season

According to reports on Friday, the NBA has apparently arrived at a “framework” for an In-Season Tournament. This of course, is not the first time the idea has been mentioned - the notion has circulated for years - with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addressing the rumors as recently as All-Star Weekend back in February of this year. “I think we were moving closer to it,” Silver had said before acknowledging that the change would not be likely for the 2022-23 season. “I feel we’ve had productive conversations with the Players Association, whose approval, of course, would be required to change the format. And my sense is there’s a fair amount of interest.”

Fast forward to today and it would seem that the In-Season Tournament is very close to becoming a reality. In terms of what kind of format it would follow and what teams would earn from it, let’s take a look at the information we have so far.

How would the NBA’s In-Season Tournament work?

As per reports, the league would play a series of “Cup Games” during the course of November. After the conclusion of those games, the eight teams with the best records would advance to a knock out round which would run through December. The remaining 22 teams in the league would continue to play their regular season games. It is understood, that the NBA would play “Cup games” throughout November. Interestingly, All In-Season Tournament games would be counted as part of the traditional 82-game schedule, however, the two teams that reach the final would understandably play one extra game - 83 in total - compared with all others.

Are there prizes for the NBA’s In-Season Tournament?

As things stand, what we can say is that reports indicate that the NBA and NBAPA are still in the phase of agreeing on and finalizing exactly how the In-Season Tournament will work. “...The NBA and NBPA are still working to finalize the In-Season Tournament concept, which includes to-be-determined prizes for the eight teams that advance to the single-elimination round.”

Incidentally, there is some context for what prizes could look like. It was back in December 2019, when reports indicated that the league had sent a proposal to all 30 teams that would have cut the regular season to 78 games with an in-season tournament featuring every club that would have taken effect for the 2021-22 season on a trial basis. “The plan laid out for teams calls for a play-in tournament to decide the seventh and eighth seeds in both conferences—the top 10 finishers in both the East and West would therefore have a chance at the playoffs—as well as a $1 million per player prize for the in-season tournament,” the report stated at the time. While that plan was obviously not implemented, it could well give us some insight as to what potential prizes could look like.


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