By Ryan McKinney
On Nov. 3, the National Basketball Association (NBA) introduced a new era of excitement with a highly anticipated in-season tournament, offering a fresh twist to the traditional basketball calendar. This groundbreaking addition aims to enhance fan engagement, bring new dynamics to the regular season, and add a unique sense to the sport that has captured the hearts of millions.
The NBA in-season tournament will feature all 30 teams competing for glory in an exciting “World Cup” style format. All 67 games of the “In-Season Tournament” (yes, that’s its actual name) will count toward the regular-season standings except the tournament championship. The tournament will take place between the beginning of November and the middle of December, providing a mid-season spectacle for fans to savor. All teams have been randomly drawn into groups of five within their conference based on won-loss records from the 2022-23 regular season. Games taking place from Nov. 3 continuing until Tuesday, Nov. 28 will be listed as “Group Play” games on specific tournament nights. Eight teams will advance to the “Knockout Rounds”, meaning the team with the best record in group play games in each of the six groups with an addition of two “wild cards”. The knockout rounds will be single-elimination games in the quarterfinals, semifinals, and championship taking place in early December. The qualifying teams will compete for a prize pool and the new In-Season Tournament trophy, the NBA Cup.
For the 2023-24 season, the new tournament brings a prize pool that is allocated to the players and teams that participate in the knockout rounds and accolade for those that make a potential deep run. At the conclusion, the NBA will name the most valuable player of the competition and the All-Tournament Team. Selection will be based on the players’ performance in both group play and the knockout rounds.
The introduction of the in-season tournament promises to inject an extra layer of competition into the regular season. Teams will not only compete for the usual division and conference standings but also for the glory and rewards associated with the tournament. This added incentive will lead to intense competition and memorable moments throughout the season, making every game count. Along with the tournament the league is also designing new courts for all teams correlating to its yearly city-edition jerseys.
As the regular season progresses and the tournament’s structure takes shape, experts and fans are making their predictions for the upcoming playoffs. Here’s a glimpse of my early forecasts for the NBA playoff top seeding:
- Boston Celtics: The Boston Celtics is my favorite to win the east due to their dual threat in Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Their scoring ability always gives them a chance to take them far.
- Milwaukee Bucks: The Milwaukee Bucks are expected to continue their strong performances into this upcoming season. Giannis Antetokounmpo’s unmatched skills, along with the new addition of Damian Lillard, will keep them in the title contention for the next few years.
- Miami Heat: The Miami Heat have struggled early on this season, but always pick up momentum after the All- Star break. With Jimmy Butler leading the way, they are poised to have yet another playoff run and might just be the dark horse of the tournament like previous years.
- Atlanta Hawks: The Atlanta Hawks contain a lot of firepower behind a Top 3 backcourt in guards Trae Young and Dejounte Murray. Young’s playmaking abilities and the team’s young talent make them a potential contender for this year finals.
- Los Angeles Lakers: The Los Angeles Lakers, with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, are perennial contenders. They are predicted to secure the top seed in the Western Conference and will be a force to be reckoned with in the tournament and the playoffs.
- Denver Nuggets: The Denver Nuggets, led by the two-time MVP Nikola Jokic, can always be seen as a threat as they are the reigning champions. Their success does depend on Jokic’s brilliance and the support of their role players.
- Golden State Warriors: The Warriors, led by veteran Stephen Curry, are always seen as a force in the postseason due to their clutch attributes as a team. They have the potential to surprise everyone and make a deep playoff run.
- Los Angeles Clippers: The Los Angeles Clippers seek to have a successful season with the addition of guard James Harden. This forms a starting roster filled with pure talent including scorers like Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.
This sums up my predictions for the top playoff seeds in the East and West. With the inaugural NBA in-season tournament fans can’t wait to see how this new format adds excitement to an already thrilling sport.