Skip to main content

Report: NBA Considering Possibility Of Play-In Tournament For Last Playoff Seeds

A general picture of a Spalding NBA basketball

(Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The NBA playoffs could see big changes in the coming years. One pretty radical proposal is reportedly gaining steam.

While the NBA continues to grow in popularity, the league is not without its issues. There are only a handful of teams, at most, that are viewed as true contenders to win a title.

The last few years have borne that out as well. The last three Finals have been Warriors vs. Cavaliers, and in the Eastern Conference, LeBron James-led teams have made the NBA Finals for seven straight years.

Even before LeBron's dominance, a small group of teams has competed at the top of the league for a while. Others have been a race towards the bottom, tanking for top picks.

It is sound strategy, but as this week's fine for Mark Cuban shows, it is not exactly one that the NBA outwardly endorses. So would more playoff teams help curb tanking?

That is likely the theory behind some new proposals making their rounds through the NBA hierarchy. ESPN's Zach Lowe says that the league is considering a potential play-in tournament for the bottom two seeds in the NBA playoffs.

Recent comments from NBA commissioner Adam Silver about tweaking the league's playoff format drew intense media coverage, but sources say there is also some behind-the-scenes momentum for the idea of a play-in tournament determining the last two seeds in each conference -- to the point that two specific proposals are circulating at the highest levels within teams and the league office.

The play-in proposal that has generated the most discussion, according to several sources: two four-team tournaments featuring the seventh, eighth, ninth, and 10th seeds in each conference. The seventh seed would host the eighth seed, with the winner of that single game nabbing the seventh spot, sources say. Meanwhile, the ninth seed would host the 10th seed, with the winner of that game facing the loser of the 7-versus-8 matchup for the final playoff spot.

Lowe notes that a big change like this is not on the table for 2018-19. He doesn't see it as realistic before 2020 or 2021 at the earliest.

There has also been talking of removing the conference split for the playoffs completely, and taking the top 16 seeds. It is unclear whether those two ideas could be used in conjunction.

Readers of former ESPN/Grantland writer and current CEO of The Ringer Bill Simmons will recognize this as a version of the proposal he has called the "Entertaining As Hell Tournament" for a few years. Simmons' idea would put every non-playoff team into a single-elimination tournament for the final playoff berth.

If the only true goal for NBA teams is to win a title, which doesn't seem like it will change, it doesn't seem like giving a few bad teams an incredibly slight chance at accomplishing that with an expanded NBA playoffs will fix much. It could also have the reverse affect of even more fervent tanking, if other rules aren't adjusted, or if high picks aren't included as incentive to win a tournament like this.

All of that being said, college basketball fans know just how fun a single-elimination basketball tournament is, even if it features very flawed teams. With that in mind, this idea could be a blast for fans, if nothing else.

[ESPN]