NBA In-Season Tournament: Things to Look For


Jul 21, 2023

The NBA‘s introduction of an in-season tournament has sparked debates among fans and pundits alike. 

Consider this: the NBA’s unofficial start has always been pegged as Christmas Day. With the in-season tournament ending on December 11th, intrigue for the NBA season begins much earlier. Moreover, the games for this tournament are scheduled for Tuesday and Friday nights. This is a strategic move on multiple fronts.

Firstly, ESPN, the NBA’s strongest broadcast partner, gets the rights to the best games. Secondly, these game nights smartly avoid football clashes, not stepping on the toes of Monday Night Football, college football on Saturdays, or the NFL on Sundays. The NBA’s thoughtful structuring of the tournament schedule amplifies its visibility and reach.

The monetary incentives are another highlight, with $500k per player up for grabs. A different approach could be to award the winning team $7.5 million to split as they choose. While stars like Bradley Beal, Deandre Ayton, Kevin Durant, and Devin Booker might not need an extra half-million, the less affluent players could benefit greatly from a larger piece of the pie.

However, a counter-argument could be made: what if superstars like Durant, Booker, and others are the ones who lead their teams to in-season tournament victories? Shouldn’t they earn their share?

One potential concern is the impact on regular season games. Will this in-season tournament change teams’ strategies and incentivize them differently? Here’s an interesting scenario: in the case of back-to-back games, teams might prioritize the tournament game and downplay the other.

But here’s an important stat to remember: 65. That’s the minimum number of games players must participate in to qualify for in-season awards, which also affect max and supermax contract eligibility. This stipulation might ensure that top players show up more frequently. After all, players are more likely to step onto the court when there’s a hefty check on the line.

The NBA’s in-season tournament might not be universally popular. Still, it can potentially increase interest in the early season, wisely avoids competition with major football events, and adds an exciting new layer of strategy for teams and players alike.

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Thumbnail photo via Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

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