The NBA’s playoff play-in tournament format will return for the 2021-22 season, sources told ESPN on Friday.
The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association agreed to extend the play-in concept for next season, pending an expected approval of the league’s board of governors at an August meeting, sources said.
The NBA’s current play-in tournament, which includes seeds 7 through 10 competing for the final two playoff spots in both conferences, was met with significant enthusiasm by fans and television audiences this season — albeit amid some discontent from star players adversely impacted because of standings.
“I personally have a big appetite — and it may be bigger than some of our teams and even some of the players,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said when asked on ABC’s NBA Countdown show prior to Game 4 in Milwaukee on Wednesday about his appetite for innovation around the league’s regular-season schedule. “There was some resistance to the play-in tournament. I hope it’s a new element of our game. We hope to go forward with that.
“We’ve talked about in-season tournaments. We’re all fans of other leagues, especially internationally. I think there is this notion of having something more to play for than just the championship; not to say that the ultimate isn’t to win the championship, but possibly doing something throughout the season. It’s something we’re taking a hard look at. It obviously won’t happen next season, but we’re talking to the players’ association and we’re talking to teams about that.”
The NBA’s hope has been that the play-in tournament would keep more teams and fans engaged in the regular season and incentivize fewer instances of teams tanking to try to leverage better draft position. The NBA and NBPA also see the value of the play-in — and possibly a future in-season tournament — in generating revenue in future media rights deals.
Out of the 30 NBA teams, 24 had a chance to earn a spot in at least the play-in tournament over the final two weeks of the 2020-21 regular season.