Understanding NBA In-Season Tournament Rules And How It Works

Understanding the NBA In-Season Tournament Rules and How It Works
Understanding the NBA In-Season Tournament Rules and How It Works

The inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament is set to commence on Friday, Nov. 3. It will culminate with the highly anticipated Championship on Saturday, Dec. 9. This thrilling tournament will showcase the best of basketball talent, with the Semifinals taking place on Thursday, Dec. 7, followed by the Championship game. These exciting matches will be held at the prestigious T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

The inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament will begin on Friday, November 3, and conclude on Saturday, December 9. The Semifinals and Championship will be held at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Thursday, December 7.

The NBA In-Season Tournament will be divided into group play and knockout rounds.

A. Group Play

Based on their won-loss records from the 2022-23 regular season, all 30 clubs were randomly assigned to groups of five within their conference. Beginning on November 3 and running through Tuesday, November 28, each team will play four designated Group Play games on “Tournament Nights” – one game against each opponent in its group, with two games at home and two on the road.

B. Knockout Rounds

The teams with the best standing in Group Play games in each of the six groups, as well as two “wild cards” (the club from each conference with the best record in Group Play games that finished second in its group), will proceed to the Knockout Rounds. The Quarterfinals, Semifinals, and Championship will be single-elimination games contested in NBA team markets on Monday, December 4, and Tuesday, December 5. The qualifying teams will compete for a reward fund and the NBA Cup, the new NBA In-Season Tournament trophy.

Except for the Championship, all 67 games from both stages of the NBA In-Season Tournament will count toward the regular-season rankings. In the 2023-24 season, each team will continue to play 82 regular-season games, including those played as part of Group Play and the Knockout Rounds.

Fourteen Group Play games (two every Tournament Night) and all seven Knockout Round games will be broadcast nationally. The NBA In-Season Tournament game and broadcast schedule will be revealed in August.

NBA In-Season Tournament Detail

A. Draw for the Group Game

A random drawing was used to divide the 15 teams that comprised each conference into three groups of five. This allowed the opponents that each club would face during the Group Play games to be determined.

Western Conference

West Group A West Group BWest Group C
Memphis GrizzliesDenver NuggetsSacramento Kings
Phoenix SunsLA ClippersGolden State Warriors
L.A. LakersNew Orleans PelicansMinnesota Timberwolves
Utah JazzDallas MavericksOklahoma City Thunder
Portland Trail BlazersHouston Rockets
San Antonio Spurs

Eastern Conference

East Group AEast Group BEast Group C
Philadelphia 76ersMilwaukee BucksBoston Celtics
Cleveland CavaliersNew York KnicksBrooklyn Nets
Atlanta HawksMiami HeatToronto Raptors
Indiana PacersWashington WizardsChicago Bulls
Detroit PistonsCharlotte HornetsOrlando Magic

Before the drawing, each team was assigned to a “pot” based on its previous regular-season record (2022-23). In each conference, one team from each pot was drawn randomly and placed in one of the three groups. The following were the pots:

  • Pot 1: The teams with the conference’s three best prior-season records.
  • Pot 2 consists of the teams with the fourth- through sixth-best prior-season records.
  • Pot 3 consists of the teams with the seventh- through ninth-best prior-season records.
  • Pot 4: Teams with the 10th to 12th best prior-season records.
  • Pot 5 consists of the teams with the 13th through 15th best prior-season records.

B. Group Play

Tournament Nights will be held every Tuesday and Friday from November 3-28 (except on Election Day, Tuesday, November 7, when no games will be played). Group Play games will be the only NBA games played on Tournament Nights. Group Play games will be treated as Regular Season games for all intents.

In one Group Play game, a team will play each of the other four teams in its group. A team’s record in these four intraconference games determines whether the team advances to the Knockout Rounds. If two or more teams within a group are tied, the tie will be broken using the following tiebreakers (in chronological order):

  • Group Stage head-to-head record;
  • Group Stage point differential;
  • Total number of points earned in the Group Stage;
  • The regular-season record from the 2022-23 NBA season; and
  • Random drawing (in the odd event that two or more teams remain tied after all prior tiebreakers).

The club with the best standing in the Group Play games in each of the six groups, and one wild card team from each conference will advance to the Knockout Rounds. The wild card will be the team from each conference that placed second in its group and had the best record in Group Play games. Suppose two or more teams are tied for the wild card in a conference. In that case, the tie will be broken using the identical tiebreaker methodology as mentioned above (with the exception of the Group Stage head-to-head record). Ties within groups will be broken before wild card tiebreakers are calculated.

C. Knockout Rounds

The Knockout Rounds will be single-elimination games for the eight teams that proceed from Group Play, commencing with the Quarterfinals on December 4-5. Teams who win will advance to the neutral-site Semifinals on December 7, followed by the Championship on December 9.

For all intents, games played in the first and second rounds of the Knockout Rounds (i.e., Quarterfinals and Semifinals, respectively) will count as Regular Season games. The Championship will not be counted as a Regular Season game (e.g., such a game would not count toward a team’s Regular Season record, nor would a player’s or team’s performance in such a game count toward Regular Season statistics).

Quarterfinal games in each conference will be hosted by the two teams with the best record in Group Play games, and the wild card team will be hosted by the team with the best record in Group Play games. If two or more teams are tied for the higher seed in a conference, the tie will be broken using the same tiebreaker protocol mentioned above.

The 22 teams who did not qualify for the Knockout Rounds will play two regular-season games on days when no NBA In-Season Tournament games are scheduled (Wednesday, December 6, and Friday, December 8).

The matches for these games will be determined using a system based on the Group Play standings in each conference (5th-15th). Two of the 22 games will be cross-conference because each conference will have an odd number of teams who still need to progress to the Quarterfinals. Subject to travel constraints, these cross-conference games will be organized between the bottom-finishing teams in the Group Play round, and each team will play at most one of its two cross-conference games. The remaining 20 games will be played inside conferences between clubs that are ordinarily slated to play each other three times throughout the season.

The four teams eliminated in the Quarterfinals will play a regular-season game on Friday, December 8, against a club from the same conference.

nba in-season tournament Prizes and League Awards

For the 2023-24 season, the NBA In-Season Tournament prize pool will be distributed to athletes on teams that advance to the Knockout Rounds, with allocations increasing based on how far a team advances.

After the NBA In-Season Tournament, the NBA will determine the competition’s Most Valuable Player and All-Tournament Team. Players will be selected based on their Group Play and Knockout Rounds performance.



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