Here is the In-Season Tournament 101 guide for this brand-new yearly competition for all 30 teams on his 2023–24 debut.
In-Season Tournament 101: I. Summary
On Friday, Nov. 3, the first-ever In-Season Tournament got underway. On Saturday, Dec. 9, the Championship will take place. T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas will host the Championship and Semifinals on Thursday, December 7. Go here to view the full schedule.
Group Play and Knockout Rounds are the two phases of the In-Season Tournament.
A. Group Play
Based on their won-loss records from the 2022–2023 regular season, all 30 teams were randomly assigned to groups of five within their conference. Every team will play four official Group Play games on “Tournament Nights” starting on Tuesday, Nov. 28 and lasting through Nov. 3. Each club will play two games at home and two away, one against each opponent in its group.
B. Knockout Rounds
Eight teams—two “wild cards” (the team from each conference with the best record in Group Play games that placed second in its group) and the team with the best standing in Group Play games in each of the six groups—will move on to the Knockout Rounds. Single-elimination games will be used for the Knockout Rounds in the Quarterfinals (which will take place in NBA team markets on Monday, December 4, and Tuesday, December 5), Semifinals, and Championship. The NBA Cup, the new In-Season Tournament trophy, and a prize pool will be up for grabs for the qualifying teams.
Except for the Championship, all 67 games from both In-Season Tournament stages will be used to determine the regular-season rankings. In the 2023–24 season, all 82 regular-season games for each team, including those in Group Play and the Knockout Rounds, will still be played.
All seven Knockout Round games and fourteen Group Play games (two on each Tournament Night) will be broadcast nationally on television. In August, the In-Season Tournament schedule for games and broadcasts will be revealed.
In-Season Tournament 101: II. Tournament Detail
A. Group Play Draw
The 15 teams in each conference were split into three groups of five teams by a random drawing to select each team’s opponents in the Group Play games. Here are the groups:
|West Group A||West Group B||West Group C|
|Memphis Grizzlies||Denver Nuggets||Sacramento Kings|
|Phoenix Suns||LA Clippers||Golden State Warriors|
|L.A. Lakers||New Orleans Pelicans||Minnesota Timberwolves|
|Utah Jazz||Dallas Mavericks||Oklahoma City Thunder|
|Portland Trail Blazers||Houston Rockets||San Antonio Spurs|
|East Group A||East Group B||East Group C|
|Philadelphia 76ers||Milwaukee Bucks||Boston Celtics|
|Cleveland Cavaliers||New York Knicks||Brooklyn Nets|
|Atlanta Hawks||Miami Heat||Toronto Raptors|
|Indiana Pacers||Washington Wizards||Chicago Bulls|
|Detroit Pistons||Charlotte Hornets||Orlando Magic|
Each team was put into a “pot” prior to the drawing, which was determined by its record from the previous regular season (2022–23). One team from each pot was chosen at random to join each of the three groupings within each conference. The pots looked like this:
• Pot 1: The groups in a conference with the three best records from the previous season.
• Pot 2: The groups with the fourth-through sixth-best records from the previous campaign.
• Pot 3: The groups with the seventh-through ninth-best records from the previous campaign.
• Pot 4: The groups with the 10th through 12th-best records from the previous campaign.
• Pot 5: The groups with the 13th through 15th-best records from the previous campaign.
B. Group Play
From November 3 to November 28, there will be Tuesday and Friday tournament nights (the exception being Tuesday, Nov. 7, election day, when there won’t be any games). Group Play games are the only NBA games that are played on Tournament Nights. All purposes will treat Group Play games as Regular Season games.
In a Group face game, a team will face each of the other four teams in its group. A team’s eligibility for the Knockout Rounds will be based on how they do in these four intraconference games. If there is a tie between two or more teams in a group, the tie will be broken using the following tiebreakers (in chronological order):
- Point differential in the group stage
- Total points scored in the group stage
- Head-to-head record
- The NBA regular season record for 2022–2023
- Random drawing (in the improbable event that, after the previous tiebreakers, two or more teams are still tied)
Eight teams—one wild card team from each conference and the team with the best record in Group Play games across all six groups—will move on to the Knockout Rounds. The squad from each conference that finished second in its group and with the best record in Group Play games will be the wild card. The same tiebreaker procedure as previously outlined will be used to break ties between teams if two or more are tied for the wild card in a conference (apart from the head-to-head record in the Group Stage). Group ties will be broken prior to determining the wild card tiebreakers.
C. Knockout Rounds
The eight teams who advance from Group Play will play single-elimination games in the Knockout Rounds, starting with the Quarterfinals on December 4-5. If a team wins, it advances to the Semifinals on December 7 at a neutral location and the Championship on December 9 at a neutral site.
All purposes will treat games played in the Quarterfinals and Semifinals, the first and second rounds of the Knockout Rounds, respectively, as Regular Season games. The Championship will not be treated as a Regular Season game for the purposes of calculating a team’s Regular Season record or the performance of a player or team in a Regular Season game.
The two clubs in each conference with the best record in group play will host the quarterfinals, and the winner of the group play standings will host the wild card team. If two or more teams are tied for the best seed in a conference, the tie will be broken using the previously mentioned tiebreaker procedure.
The 22 clubs who don’t make it to the Knockout Rounds will play two regular-season games apiece during the Knockout Rounds on Wednesday, December 6, and Friday, December 8, when there are no In-Season Tournament games scheduled.
The Group Play standings in each conference will be used to determine the pairings for these games by a formulaic method (5th-15th). Since there will be an odd number of clubs in each conference who do not make it to the quarterfinals, two of the 22 games will be scheduled as cross-conference matches. Subject to travel restrictions, these cross-conference matchups involving the bottom-finishing teams in the Group Play round will be scheduled, and no team will play more than one of its two cross-conference games. The remaining twenty games will, if feasible, be planned inside conferences and will pit teams against each other three times during the season.
On Friday, December 8, each of the four teams eliminated from the quarterfinals will play a regular-season game against the other team in their conference.
In-Season Tournament 101: III. Prizing and League Honors
The players on the teams that compete in the Knockout Rounds will get a portion of the In-Season Tournament prize pool for the 2023–24 season, with the amount of the prize pool growing based on a team’s level of tournament advancement.
The NBA will announce the All-Tournament Team and the Most Valuable Player of the competition following the end of the In-Season Tournament. The players’ performances in both the Group Play and Knockout Rounds will determine who gets chosen.
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