The Play-In Tournament is here to stay, which is great news if you’re a TV executive or am NBA bubble team. The NBA Board of Governors met this week in Las Vegas and all parties agreed to keep the tournament, which was initially proposed as a temporary solution during the pandemic-shortened seasons. There was also agreement for harsher penalties for “take foul,” and a discussion about an in-season tournament for all 30 teams.
The NBA Board of Governors gathered in Las Vegas during the NBA 2K23 Summer League. All participants discussed rule changes and the future of the league.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced the league passed $10 billion in revenue for the first time, with basketball revenue falling just short of $9 billion.
“The numbers did surprise me to a certain degree because it exceeded projections, and the projections represent where we think our business is going,” said Silver. “I think it’s quite remarkable from where we came 2.5 years ago.”
Two seasons ago, the NBA had to delay the season’s finish because of the pandemic shut down in March of 2020. The league created the NBA Bubble in Orlando where they played a reduced number of regular-season games and the playoffs without fans. The 2020-21 season was also shortened from 82 to 72 games with a quick turnaround time. The 2021-22 season was the first time the NBA returned to its usual 82-game regular season.
Popular Play-In Tournament
The NBA Play-In Tournament is similar to the wild-card round in baseball or pro football where teams can still qualify for a postseason berth, but will have to jump through an extra hoop to get there. It gives fans of marginal teams something to root for late in the season. It also reduces tanking, which many franchises continue to do in order to secure a high lottery pick.
As it stands, the NBA teams that finish in ninth and 10th place in each conference qualify for the Play-In Tournament with a chance to secure the #8 seed.
The seventh and eighth place teams play a single game where the winner secures the #7 seed. The loser of that seven-eight game faces the winner of the ninth place versus 10th-place teams to determine the #8 seed.
The New Orleans Pelicans finished the regular season 36-46 and ninth overall in the Western Conference, but they won the Play-In Tournament to snatch the #8 seed. Without the Play-In Tournament, the LA Clippers would have had the #8 seed because they finished the season in eighth place in the conference. However, the Clippers lost two games in the Play-In Tournament when the Minnesota Timberwolves beat them in the seven-eight game and the Pelicans them picked off in the final game.
Penalties for ‘take foul’
The NBA wants the flow of the game to continue instead of teams preventing fast breaks with a “take foul” when they wrap up a player and sacrifice a foul instead of giving up two points in transition.
The Board of Governors voted to reward the team with a one-shot free throw, plus they get the ball back. The team that gets fouled will also be able to select the free-throw shooter, as they do for a technical foul. The league hopes this will be a deterrent and that coaches will tell their players to let a fast break happen.
“Generally, it was upbeat coming out of our meeting,” said Silver said. “People are thrilled that as we head into next season, it looks like we’ll be on our normal track in terms of when the season starts, in terms of our protocols around the game, particularly around the health and safety of our players.”
The new take foul rule won’t be in effect in the final two minutes of the fourth quarter, or in the final two minutes of any overtime session.
In-Season Tournament, age requirement drop?
Silver says he’s in favor of lowering the age requirement from 19 to 18 for players entering the league. That would eliminate the one-and-done rule where future prospects play a single season of college basketball before entering the NBA.
“There’s an opportunity to change it,” said Silver. “It’s based on larger conversations than just whether we go from 19 to 18, but I’m on record: When I balance all of these various considerations, I think that would be the right thing to do and I am hopeful that that’s a change we make in this next collective bargaining cycle, which will happen in the next couple years.”
The NBA — drawing inspiration from soccer — wants to host an in-season tournament sometime around the Christmas holiday in the final week of the season.
Every team will be able to participate in the tournament, with the winning team banking somewhere around $1 million per player plus additional incentives. If you’re on a rookie contract or signed for a veteran minimum contract, the extra money means something, so there’s a huge incentive for teams to try to win it.
Eight teams will play in a single-elimination tournament format, with the final four hosted at a neutral site. There was a debate on whether the NBA would reduce the regular season from 82 to 78 games with the inclusion of the tournament.