NBA Midseason Tournament Can Save Regular Season
The modern NBA fan is more likely to binge on a Netflix series over the weekend instead of following a network script for 22 episodes. So, of course, watching an 82-game slog feels longer and more tedious than ever. The NBA recognizes this shift in attitude and has seen it trickle down to its own workforce. Players mentally and physically check in earlier in the year, load management watered down the regular season product, and Kyrie Irving seems to dip for a few PTO weeks every winter.
Even commissioner Adam Silver thinks the NBA regular season sucks and tries to add a little seasoning to it without completely ruining the recipe. In an interview with Yahoo Sports last All-Star weekend, Silver discussed the idea of permanently shortening the schedule. join a mid-season tournament.
A 67-72 game season, like the one played in 2021, would likely solve their problems, but that’s a lot to ask of a league that has committed to 82-game seasons since 1967. Owners and players have no also no interest. to reduce the gate receipts or basketball-related revenue from those additional home games, regardless of the percentage of the total pie.
The NBA’s midseason tournament was discussed every few months throughout Silver’s tenure as commissioner. Silver recently revealed that negotiations have begun with the union on some sort of institution of a mid-season tournament, but according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the NBA is looking at a mid-season tournament as early as 2023.
A midseason cut is coming to the NBA this decade. Here’s what they should consider before they do things too badly.
Whatever the NBA decides to do, it will have to thread a needle. An in-season tournament that harms the championship will require incentives for stars to participate, especially those of contenders. Otherwise, teams will rack up excessive mid-season DNPs at an even higher rate for their starters by using the tournament to field their G League calls and younger reserves. The last thing the NBA wants to do is come up with something that exacerbates this problem.
So what is the solution ? A million dollar bonus for each player has already been offered, but NBA rotation players aren’t doing extra work outside of their already set schedule for less than eight figures. The prospect of an additional draft pick for this tournament would be the kind of variable that could motivate star players, especially those stuck on mid-but-not-quite-mediocre teams looking for a path to contention.
The promise of a an additional draft pick has been thrown is not new, but the choice to be 15th or the NBA Draft Lottery is. Essentially, by winning the mid-season cup, a team would be awarded the lowest odds in the draft lottery. The chance to sign potential trajectory-altering talent is the only way they can get someone like Dame Lillard or Joel Embiid on the floor for the second half of a back-to-back in December for more than a cameo if that’s the case. t count against the playoff standings. I’ve heard critics like Bill Simmons say elite teams wouldn’t care about a draft pick, but that’s myopia. Lebron may not have time to prepare first-round picks, but he’s an asset his Lakers team could weaponize in a trade for a veteran All-Star. To prevent a competitive imbalance from forming by a team piling up picks, the NBA must stipulate that no team can win it twice in a row and the defending champions should be automatically disqualified.
In-Season Cup, not a mid-season tournament
The G League Showcase Cup is a Petri dish of how the NBA’s in-season tournament would most likely be run. The idea of the G League involves four regional pods where teams play 12 games against each other and the four teams with the best winning percentage advance to a single-elimination tournament. It strongly resembles the WNBA Commissioners Cup, consisting of 10 games per team, starting with the first home and road games that each team plays against their conference or division rivals. This is an intentional decision on the part of the NBA.
Both cup proposals borrow from the European football model and would not disrupt the NBA schedule as 90% of the tournament would be neatly integrated into the prodigious NBA schedule. Essentially, the first two games of the regular season against teams in your squad would also be in-season tournament games. Once the points are counted, the knockout stages begin. This creates another data point for fans to stress over and gives more weight to regular season games during the scorching days of December and January.
If the NBA wants its NCAA Tournament facsimile to crossover with the Maui Invitational, it wouldn’t take as long as it looks. Thirty teams, including two first-round byes for the two seeds, would mean five more games for the eventual champion. This two-week cut could give the NBA fan contingent exactly what they’ve always wanted. A glimpse into a world where the NBA champion is decided in a knockout game and intra-conference tournament that ignores conference scores.
If the regular NBA playoffs are the Boston Marathon, it’s the 100 meters. There will be no adjustments before Game 2, neutral venue games and the public will not be fatigued by a playoff marathon. This one would be a sprint. The most exciting thing about this tournament is that since it would take place over a few matches, it would only take one team to get hot for a Cinderella story.
Battle for the Intercontinental Title
An intercontinental tournament wouldn’t match the single elimination idea thrown around, but what it lacks in numbers it makes up for in reach. If the NBA wants a mid-season tournament off the beaten path, it should span the world and go beyond the NBA’s borders. The NBA Finals champ was casually declared world champion for decades. This top dog status has never been challenged because the NBA has always been the superior product, but even that gap is narrowing. The world is catching up in national team competitions, but are its national leagues biting the NBA’s heels?
Would they play by FIBA rules, NBA rules or a hybrid? That’s the part that makes it fun. FIBA and NBA rules vary in myriad ways, but the most significant differences are their shorter 3-point line, five fouls being the personal foul limit instead of six, no lane violation and the goalkeeper off the edge is allowed. For maximum fairness, they can alternate between the two each year.
According to the records, the top four teams in the NBA are expected to defend the NBA’s right to call their champions the world champions against the top four in the EuroLeague. For example, a tournament in 2022 would have featured a top-seeded FC Barcelona team led by Nikola Mirotić, Dante Exum and Alex Abrines. Olympiacos Piraeus, AX Armani Exchange Milan would have completed the top four teams that would be drafted for knockout matchups against the Miami Heat, Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns and Memphis Grizzlies. Eight teams, three games. NBA players are proud enough of their league to play three more games when the NBA’s ability to qualify their Finals winner as a world champion hangs in the balance. Worst-case scenario, that idea is a few decades too soon. and elite EuroLeague teams will tire of watching their best teams fade as one of young Mike Tyson’s sparring partners.
Yes, this Kraken is resurrected. The NBA, however, should only bet on this concept for the round of 16. To differentiate the mid-season cup competition from any other basketball competition, including Spain’s famous Copa del Rey tournament, the Elam Ending should be how the Cup knockout matches should end.
For the uninitiated, the Elam Ending was created by Nick Elam, founder of The Basketball Tournament and co-opted by the NBA for its All-Star Game. The Elam Ending would essentially replace the clock in the last frame. Instead, a target score would be set based on the score at the start of the quarter and the first team to reach the target score wins. For example, the All-Star Game sets the target score at 24 points more than the leading team’s total after three quarters. For example, if the Blazers were leading Orlando 100-95 after three quarters, the target score would be 124.
It doesn’t interfere with the basics of basketball and creates an opportunity for more electrifying finishes. If Adam Silver is going to optimize the sport, optimize it all the way.