The NBA continues to be a very innovative sports league and gets most things right. For example, in the past few years the league has: (i) instituted a play-in tournament; (ii) created an in-season NBA Cup tournament; and (iii) required players to play approximately 80% of regular season games to be eligible for the significant NBA post season awards. In my opinion, each of these initiatives has been a huge success.
In 2020, the NBA created a postseason tournament to determine which two teams in each conference will secure the final two playoff spots. Teams finishing the regular season in positions 7 through 10 in the standings for each conference compete to determine the 7th and 8th seeds in each conference’s playoff format.
The play-in tournament has created additional excitement for fans because teams will rarely be “out” of the playoff race.
The NBA introduced its in-season tournament in 2023. This single elimination tournament is an early season event where each team plays four designated regular season games which count toward “group play.” Six “group” winners and two wild card second place finishers advance through a series of knockout rounds. The last team standing wins the NBA Cup. Players on the winning team each receive $500,00 and members on the runner-up team pockets $200,000. In addition, players on the two losing teams in the semifinals each get $100,000 and the players on the four losing teams in the quarterfinals each receive $50,000.
The in-season tournament concludes the first week in December and is an effective marketing event that heightens interest in early season NBA basketball
Post-season awards eligibility
Players can be eligible to earn a “super-max” contract based on being selected to All-NBA team(s) or winning the MVP or Defensive Player of the Year, awards. Beginning with the 2023/24 season, the NBA and the NBAPA agreed to a participation standard for eligibility of these post season awards. Players now have to play a minimum of 65 games (out of 82) to be eligible for All-NBA, MVP and DPOY awards. This rule will help reverse the recent trend of load management—which is when healthy players opt to rest instead of playing games. If a player misses more than 20% of the season, he will not be eligible for the league’s top honors. Players wanting to earn a “super-max” contract will no longer take nights off unless they are truly injured. When NBA stars play everyone benefits!
I believe the integrity of the NBA will be better served if some modifications are made to the wins and loss records of head coaches. Specifically, two changes should be made immediately.
First, a person should only be eligible to coach an All-Star team if: (a) he did not coach the game the prior year and (b) he coached at least 80% of the regular season games prior to the All-Star game selection.
Doc Rivers was selected to be the 2024 NBA Eastern Conference All-Star coach despite coaching only three games the entire season! This embarrassment is an insult to the coaching profession and to the fans.
Second, eligibility for regular season wins and loss records for Head Coaches needs to be changed. A rule should be implemented that states “the person designated as the ‘Acting Head Coach’ when the game begins will be credited with that game’s result.” If a coach misses a game due to injury, illness, or a personal reason, they should not get credit for the win (or loss) for that game. This injustice was magnified during the 2015/16 season when Steve Kerr missed the first 43 games of the season. He was given credit for 39 wins for games he did not attend.
Players are required to play in order to be eligible for NBA awards, so it makes sense coaches should have to coach to be eligible for a win.