The NBA stumbled upon one of the most intriguing innovations in its history last season when it came up with the play-in tournament. Effectively expanding the playoffs, last season it allowed for the ninth-seeded team to have a shot against the eighth seed to get into the traditional 16-team postseason.
In its first iteration, the ninth seed would have to win two games and the eighth seed would have to win just one. The Phoenix Suns put up an incredible effort to get in, but even their 8-0 record in the NBA bubble wasn’t enough. The eighth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers ultimately held off the ninth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies, winning the first and decisive game.
4 teams that could thrive in the NBA play-in tournament
This season the play-in tournament has been further expanded. Now, the seventh and eighth-placed teams will play each other one game for the right to be the seven-seed, with the losing team getting another chance in a third game. The ninth and 10th-placed teams will play for the right to be the third game against the loser of the seven vs eight game, while the loser is eliminated and goes directly into the NBA lottery.
The winner of the crucial third game between the loser of the seven vs eight game and the winner of the nine vs 10 game takes the eight seed.
If it sounds like a lot, well, it is. But it’s half a dozen games of high-leverage basketball, and after a bizarre season full of injuries, infections and postponed games, it’s going to be a welcome way to spend a few days of the NBA season.
Given the shortened nature of the play-in tournament, it’s easy to see how some teams with the capacity to get hot for a few games might have an edge. We’ll take a look at four teams in particular within the bottom range of the playoff standings that may thrive in this setting.