A popular, yet controversial feature to the NBA’s schedule is making a return next season.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the NBA Board of Governors has voted to bring back the play-in tournament for the upcoming 2021-22 NBA season.
The play-in tournament was introduced last season. In the tournament, the 7-10 seeds in both conferences at the end of the regular season play for the final two spots in the NBA playoffs. The structure, per NBA.com, is as follows:
At the conclusion of the regular season but before the first round of the playoffs, the team with the 7th-highest winning percentage in each conference will host the team with the 8th-highest winning percentage in a Play-In Game (the “Seven-Eight Game”). The winner of the Seven-Eight Game in each conference will earn the No. 7 seed.
The team with the 9th-highest winning percentage in each conference will host the team with the 10th-highest winning percentage in the “Nine-Ten Game”. The loser of the Seven-Eight Game will host the winner of the Nine-Ten Game in a Play-In Game, and the winner of that game in each conference will earn the No. 8 seed.
In last year’s tournament, the Memphis Grizzlies and the Los Angeles Lakers both defeated the Golden State Warriors to claim a spot in the first round of the playoffs (Memphis went on to compete against Utah, while the Lakers faced off against Phoenix). As for the Eastern Conference, the Washington Wizards defeated the Indiana Pacers to move on to the playoffs, taking on Philadelphia, while the Boston Celtics defeated Washington to advance, taking on Brooklyn.
The play-in tournament was a controversial addition, with players such as LeBron James coming out in vocal opposition to the tournament.
While some players weren’t fans, NBA fans were more positive about the changes as the play-in game between the Lakers and Golden State Warriors brought in over 5.6 million viewers. Now with the play-in tournament officially back for next year, it appears League officials agree.