NBA Play in Tournament — One and Done OR Here to Stay?

Breaking Down the Tentative 2020–2021 NBA Season Structure

The details of the 2020–2021 NBA Season are tentatively in place. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the upcoming NBA Season will break down as follows.

- December 22nd — NBA Opening Night

- March 5–10 — All-Star Break (No All-Star Game/ All Star Festivities)

- May 16th — Regular Season Ends

- May 17–21 — Play-In Tournament (7–10 Seeds in Each Conference)

- May 22nd — First Round of Playoffs

- June 7th — Conference Semi-Finals

- June 22nd — Conference Finals

  • July 8–22 — NBA Finals
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Again, these are only tentative dates. Nothing is set in stone. However, if Woj is reporting it, it is close to a done deal.

As a passionate sports fan, particularly of the NBA, I am ecstatic about the abbreviated offseason and the restructured regular season formats.

The most intriguing aspect of the NBA’s plan for the 2020–21 season is the play in tournament. This new wrinkle will give the 7–10 seeds in each conference a chance to earn a spot in the post season.

In past years, the NBA has discussed the possibility of a play in tournament that would mimic the Conference Tournaments we see in college basketball but have never pulled the trigger.

Due to obvious reasons, the NBA now has an excuse to explore these new formats such as the condensed offseason, shortened regular season, and play in tournament, among others.

The NBA Bubble in Orlando gave us a taste of what a play in tournament scenario would look like at the professional level. Albeit the Bubble games were an extension of the regular season, it still had the tournament-like feel to it.

While the NBA Bubble excluded teams who did not have a shot at punching their ticket to the post season, it gave teams like the Phoenix Suns, Orlando Magic, and Washington Wizards the opportunity to play in meaningful basketball games while simultaneously evaluating and developing young talent on their roster. The extra evaluation and development that teams received proved invaluable. So much so that the teams that were left out of the NBA’s Bubble, otherwise known as the ‘Delete 8’ wanted to form a Bubble of their own.

While, we do not know whether the NBA’s plan for a play in tournament will take place in a Bubble setting or in home markets, it will provide an extra opportunity for organizations to assess the direction of their respective franchise.

In addition to the benefit of extra talent evaluation and development on a team by team basis, a play in tournament provides yet another level of excitement for the fans.

The NBA regular season has always been criticized for the lack of effort on the part of the athletes. Many take the stance that NBA players coast during the regular season and switch gears into ‘Playoff Mode’ come crunch time. While the fans who take that stance are not wrong, it is not necessarily a secret in the NBA. Things like ‘Load Management’ are ways for NBA teams to preserve their top talent through the regular season so that they are fresh when it counts.

While these objectively conservative moves are the strategic way to business in the NBA, they generate a negative perception from fans. Therefore, many fans gravitate to college basketball because the effort level is evident each and every game. You never see a college athlete take a game or two off because they are tired.

In short, the new structure of the NBA season is directly linked to our current circumstances with the pandemic. However, I think the NBA’s main motivation for a re-structured season format must be improving the interest and excitement surrounding the NBA, particularly the regular season. Of course, recouping the lost TV revenue plays a major role as well.

Ultimately, Adam Silver and the NBA came up with this tentative plan that should excite NBA fans. A shortened season and play in tournament will help the NBA generate plenty of excitement and intrigue for its fans. If all goes well, this new offseason and regular season structure could be something the NBA looks to implement for the foreseeable future.

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