Sports Take: NBA teams need to stay competitive to close off season

Dallas Mavericks forward Dwight Powell (7) battles Sacramento Kings guard Terence Davis (9) for the ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, April 18, 2021, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)

By Marquis Cooley | Reporter

Toward the end of every NBA regular season, there’s a month and half of basketball that’s boring for fans to watch. Superstars sit out of games to rest for the playoffs, and teams give up on their season for better draft positions, making games uninteresting and somewhat predictable.

For the past few years, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has tried to come up with ways to combat this such as changing the draft lottery odds to discourage teams from tanking for the worst record, but nothing has worked until now.

Adding on to the format used for the playoffs in the NBA bubble, the NBA decided to experiment this season with a play-in tournament for the playoffs. How this works is the top six teams in each conference make the playoffs. The seventh best team in the conference plays the eighth best team for the seventh seed in the playoffs, and the loser of that game will play the winner of the matchup between the ninth and tenth place teams for the last playoff spot in their respective conferences.

This means that throughout the entire season, at least 20 out of the 30 teams in the NBA are competing for the playoffs, meaning teams can’t take games off. Teams that have struggled to make the playoffs in the past few years now have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs if they can catch fire toward the end of the season and obtain the ninth or tenth spot much like the Phoenix Suns did last season in the bubble.

With about 15 games left for each team this season, there are four teams in the eastern conference still fighting for the tenth spot and will probably be fighting for it until their last game of the season, making for meaningful basketball at the end of the regular season, which hasn’t happened in a long time.

On the other side of it, teams at the top of the standings have to stay competitive so they don’t slip into a play-in game spot. This season, teams such as the Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics, who have had no trouble making the playoffs in the past few years, are now worried about having to risk their playoff chances on one or two games at the end of the season if they don’t finish the regular season strong.

While the NBA play-in tournament may not be as thrilling as the March Madness tournament, it encourages teams to remain competitive throughout the entire season, which will make the end of the NBA regular season fun and enjoyable to watch for the first time in a long time.