The NBA has announced the schedule for the first ever In-Season Tournament and the Detroit Pistons will be featured in East Group A along with the 76ers, Hawks, Cavaliers and Pacers.
I’ve long wanted something like this to happen, as I’ve watched first hand how compelling these types of tournaments have been in European football over the years and think the NBA needs something similar to make the regular season more interesting.
But Adam Silver blew it in several ways, the first being that there really isn’t anything at stake except for the “NBA Cup” (what a creative name!) and some extra money for guys who already have generational wealth in their bank accounts.
But Silver is not afraid to shake things up, so I expect the In-Season Tournament will be a work in progress and eventually evolve into something that is more exciting for fans.
One way to do that is to make the stakes higher and one analyst has a wild suggestion for how to get it done.
Detroit Pistons: A wild suggestion for the NBA In-Season Tournament
ESPN’s Bobby Marks had an idea for how to add some spice to the In-Season Tournament, which is to give the winner an automatic bid into the playoffs:
If a 500k bonus isn’t enough to motivate players to take the In-Season Tournament seriously, then this would certainly do it.
Although I do think it’s an interesting idea, it does have some cons to go along with the pros. Teams like the Detroit Pistons, who are long shots to make the playoffs, would get the chance to get hot for four games and earn their way in through the In-Season Tournament. If you want to get fans of these types of teams excited to watch these games, that’s one way to do it.
The biggest con is that the tournament takes place in November and ends on December 9th. That leaves a whole lot of season for a team that just earned an automatic playoff bid. Would they just coast and rest players? Would they have any motivation to win?
And do we really want the chance of an inferior team making the playoffs over one that played well for the entire regular season, not just a few games of it? It’s unlikely one of the bad teams would win the tournament anyway, but if they did, we could potentially have a situation where a good team is left out in favor of one that won like 25 games.
Of course, that would be exciting too, but if the goal is to make the regular season more relevant, this could actually have the opposite effect, as it would allow the winner to coast and potentially devalue the rest of the regular season for someone else.
But I do think Marks is right about one thing: The In-Season Tournament as currently formatted doesn’t add much for fans and definitely needs some tweaks in the future.