The 2019-20 season ended with a Los Angeles Lakers title, but it is easy to forget how much work the NBA and NBPA had to do to ensure the season could conclude in a safe and reasonable way.
The bubble environment on the Walt Disney World campus was by all means a success as no new COVID-19 (coronavirus) cases appeared during the restart while the games did not seem to suffer in quality or intensity. The lack of travel surely played a part in the players looking fresher and made for a very exciting postseason.
One of the more unexpected successes of the bubble was the introduction of the play-in tournament to determine the Western Conference’s eight seed. The Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies got the chance to play for their playoff berth with the former eventually coming out on top.
The play-in tournament added an extra layer of intrigue and according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, it appears the NBA wants to keep it a permanent fixture:
The NBA wants to continue to incorporate the play-in tournament that was utilized in the Orlando restart to determine the eighth seed in the Eastern and Western Conference playoffs, according to sources.
People like Kyle Kuzma and Lakers head coach Frank Vogel offered differing opinions on the play-in tournament but commissioner Adam Silver’s interest in keeping the tournament makes sense as it is an extra source of revenue the league could definitely use amidst the current pandemic.
The play-in format also adds incentive for teams outside the playoff picture as they would at least have a shot at qualifying.
The possibility of earning a post in the postseason made the seeding games more interesting as teams like the Phoenix Suns and New Orleans Pelicans were in the mix to qualify. Rather than tanking for better lottery odds, teams made a concerted effort to win and that resulted in better basketball games.
It remains to be seen whether or not the play-in tournament will be implemented going forward, but it is something that should seriously be considered given the response to this past one.
Disadvantage of play-in tournament for the No. 1 seed
While the play-in tournament would make for an exciting addition to the playoff race, it also does have an unintended consequence for the No. 1 seed.
As the Lakers noted, they were the last team to know who their first-round opponent would be, while other teams had more time to scout and prepare for their matchups. While Los Angeles was able to dispatch Portland in five games, it did raise questions as to whether or not it was fair for the top seed to have to wait.
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