The NBA had success with a truncated postseason tournament in the bubble in 2020 and decided to create a full-scale Play-In Tournament in 2021. Many people are excited about this new format, but I’m here to tell you it’s a bad idea. Here’s why.
It lets too many teams in
The NBA already let more teams (tied with the NHL) into the playoffs than any other major pro sport. Now, with the Play-In Tournament allowing the 9 and 10 seed in each conference into the postseason as well, it is just getting ridiculous.
As the standings sit with just three or four games left, the 9 and 10 seeds in each conference have horrendous records. In these spots in the West, you have the Memphis Grizzlies (35-33) and the San Antonio Spurs (33-35). In the East, it’s even worse. Both teams are sub-.500 with the Indiana Pacers (32-36) and the Washington Wizard (32-37).
After 72 regular-season games, you know what no one is saying? “Wow, I really want to see more Pacers vs. Wizards games!”
It lengthens the already never-ending playoffs
This is a minor gripe, but it’s a gripe nonetheless. The NBA playoffs are very long. They stretch all the way into late June, and an extra layer of postseason Play-In games only makes this longer.
Also, the NBA playoffs don’t truly start until round two. Sure, there is the occasional tight round one series, but those are few and far between. In a season like 2020-21, where blowouts were more common than ever, the Play-In delays the good stuff that much more.
There’s a chance it means we don’t get LeBron James
The biggest reason that the Play-In Tournament is a bad idea is currently playing out in front of our eyes. The worst-case scenario is happening. When you make the 7 and 8 seeds play for their playoff lives, there is a chance they will lose in a one-game scenario.
Sure, that may not have sounded terrible at the beginning of the season because the 7 and 8 seeds are bottom feeders who are barely playoff teams. It’s not like the Lakers could slip to 7 and be back-to-back losses away from being out of the playoffs for good, right?
WRONG! In this crazy, shortened season, anything can (and did) happen. Anthony Davis went down with an injury, LeBron James went down with an injury, and now, the Lakers are in the Play-In.
This may make for an exciting game or two but do we really want to have an entire NBA playoff season without LeBron? Do we really want to see the banged-up Lakers forced to play two more games before getting to the main event?
No. We don’t. The playoffs are not better without the Lakers, no matter how exciting the Play-In Tournament is. That might be the reality though if things stay the way they are.
The NBA Play-In tournament may have stopped some tanking and might create two or three exciting games but is it worth it? If we lose some of the NBA’s best, most exciting players – in addition to AD and LeBron, we could also lose Stephen Curry, Jayson Tatum, LaMelo Ball, Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal, and Ja Morant – is it really worth it? I say it’s not. It’s a bad idea.