The NBA could make a major change to its playoff format, but not the one about which the commissioner recently hinted.
The league is considering a play-in tournament to determine the final two playoff seeds in each conference, with two proposals circulating at the highest levels of teams and the league office, sources told ESPN's Zach Lowe.
The proposal that's reportedly gained the most steam would see the league host two tournaments for teams seeded 7-10 in each conference, which would play out as follows:
|(1) No. 7 vs. No.8||7th seed in playoffs|
|(2) No. 9 vs. No. 10||to face loser from (1)|
|Loser of (1) vs. winner of (2)||8th seed in playoffs|
Alternatively, some executives have pushed for this format:
|No. 7 vs. No.10||7th seed in playoffs|
|No. 8 vs. No. 9||8th seed in playoffs|
Both represent a compromise to an idea reportedly pitched three years ago, which called for a single-elimination tournament comprised of the teams seeded 8-11 in each conference to duke it out for the final playoff spot.
Adopting a play-in tourney aligns with the NBA's broader goal to disincentivize tanking - which prompted the draft lottery reform beginning in 2019 - as it would encourage teams lower in the standings to try to win games in hopes of pulling off an upset. It should also boost the league's revenue and help keep fans interested during the home stretch of the regular season.
Lowe notes it isn't imminent that the league will adopt such a tournament, and that it ranks on the NBA's priority list behind addressing the one-and-done rule and potentially reseeding the playoff to include the 16 best teams regardless of record. Commissioner Adam Silver said during All-Star weekend that the latter has received "serious attention" from the league in recent years.
For such a significant change to be implemented, the proposal would require approval from the competition committee and a supermajority of 23 NBA teams, plus collective bargaining with the players' union - none of which has begun.