Last week, we published an article about the Wizards’ draw in the NBA in-season tournament for the 2023-24 season. Overall, I’m happy to see that the NBA is trying to do something to increase the importance of regular season games, especially early in the season. But I also feel that the in-season tournament could still use some improvements.
1. Increase the number of teams that make the knockout stage
This year’s tournament will include all 30 NBA teams who play in six groups of five. But only eight teams will make the elimination round in December. Perhaps increasing the knockout field to 12 or 16 could incentivize teams to keep playing hard in the group stage should they have a rough start.
2. Invite some NBA G-League teams to the tournament
The NBA’s in-season tournament is essentially their version of the WNBA Commissioner’s Cup. There was a desire to mimic national cups in European countries’ soccer leagues (ex. The Copa del Rey in Spain, the KNVB Beker in the Netherlands or FA Cup in England/Wales). In these cups, the premier leagues will compete, but so do teams in the second and lower tier leagues.
In the USA, it isn’t realistic for us to have NBA, G-League and college teams playing in the same tournament due to the hard boundaries between professional and school-based amateur athletics. But the NBA can at least invite some G-League teams in the tournament where the top teams from last season play in the tournament (and hopefully, get bonuses to play.)
Do I expect a G-League team to win the tournament? No. But I certainly expect them to play extra hard and upset some NBA teams that are either tanking or being strategic with superstars’ “load management.”
3. Spread out the tournament games over the entire regular season
If the NBA wants to further mimic European soccer cups, these games shouldn’t be played all at once during November with a two round knockout tournament in December. The games should be spaced out throughout the course of the regular season between November and February, with the knockout stage in March.
4. Have the tournament winner play the NBA playoff champion early next year in an “NBA Supercup” with more money to be given out in future seasons
It’s great to see that the tournament winners will get money, $500,000 per player. That might not sound like a lot to someone on a max contract. But the end-of-the-bench reserve will certainly not mind this type of bonus. The team should also have a reward for the following season in the form of a supercup, which European countries also do between the league (or regular season) champion and the cup champion.
In American sports, we don’t consider the best team in the regular season the champion due to our fixation, perhaps even an over-fixation on the playoffs. So an “NBA Supercup” could be a preseason game between last season’s playoff champion (meaning the NBA Finals winners) and the in-season tournament champion. If the NBA playoff champions also won the in-season tournament, then the runner up of the tournament plays the champion. European supercup games are also often held early in the season.
And yes, money should be given to players on both teams.
How would you tweak the NBA in-season tournament? Let us know in the comments below.