In an unsurprising move considering how generally successful they were this year and last, the NBA is reportedly set to keep the play-in rounds for next season.
That’s according to this report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski:
The NBA and the Players Association have agreed to extend the play-in tournament format through the 2021-2022 season, sources told ESPN on Friday.
The NBA Board of Governors will soon make it official in a formal vote.
The format, which saw teams 7-10 in each conference playing for the final two playoff spots, led to a variety of results that the NBA considers positives. That included reduced incentive to tank, considering there was an expanded path to the postseason. It also increased incentive near the top of each conference; under this format, clinching a top-six seed is now a lot more important than before. That theoretically keeps the better teams from sitting back for the final stretch of the season.
Plus, and perhaps most importantly, there’s the games themselves, and what they might mean for ratings. The Lakers-Warriors matchup, for example, was perhaps the best-case scenario for a play-in game. Not only was it Steph Curry vs. LeBron James, with two big west coast markets, but it was actually a fantastic game as well, and it led to a very solid number for ESPN, and probably led the NBA to view it as potential future inventory to sell when rights come up for bid in the near future.
Somewhat ironically, though, it was LeBron who offered the most forceful pushback against the entire concept.
LeBron James on the play-in tournament: "Whoever came up with that s— needs to be fired"
— Dave McMenamin (@mcten) May 3, 2021
LeBron’s opinion in the moment was obviously never going to be the deciding factor, and the union was always going to get on board with it. Whether they can get any concessions in return for playing more extra games in quick succession ahead of a possible postseason run of games as well, though, remains to be seen.
Considering how this year’s play-in went, overall, this feels like a positive tweak to the league calendar. Keeping more teams alive can only be good, more elimination game chances are good. This is a good thing, and credit all parties involved for recognizing that.