The NBA In-Season Tournament is here!

The Inaugural NBA In-Season Tournament started Nov. 3 in which all 30 teams will be given the chance to compete for a trophy. The Championship game will conclude on Saturday, Dec. 9.

The 2023 NBA In-Season Tournament is underway, which includes group play, knock out rounds, quarterfinals, semifinals, and a championship game. With a long 82 game season, this new experience will find ways to engage fans, yet raise a new level of competition for teams and players. Much like the NBA Finals, there will be one crowned winner, which will include an MVP trophy. Similar to the Commissioners Cup in the WNBA, there will be a prize pool, and a trophy given to the winning team.

With this so new to the league, several organizations have never won an NBA Championship, including the Brooklyn Nets, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers, Charlotte Hornets, Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, Utah Jazz, and Orlando Magic. Although it's not the Larry O'Brien Trophy, perhaps teams will feel they are closer to that goal. For example, the NBA Summer League has an end of the season tournament and Championship.

During the In-Season Tournament, each of the 30 teams will have a custom court design on their designated games, in addition to City Edition Uniforms.

What is Group Play?

Based off team's record the previous season, all thirty teams were randomly assigned into six different groups within their respective conferences. For the Western and Eastern Conferences, there's West/East group A, B, and C. For the duration of the tournament, teams will have four set group play games, which will continue until Nov. 28. Group play tournaments will be featured every Tuesday and Friday of the week. There are two components to this entire tournament, which include group play and knockout rounds.

In terms of team and group selection, each team is placed into a pot before being randomly selected. There are five different pots a team will be placed in, depending on the outcome of the 2022-2023 season. Below is a example of the five Pots, provided by the NBA:

Pot 1: The teams with the three best prior-season records in a conference.
Pot 2: The teams with the fourth- through sixth-best prior-season records.
Pot 3:The teams with the seventh- through ninth-best prior-season records.
Pot 4: The teams with the 10th-through 12th-best prior-season records.
Pot 5: The teams with the 13th-through 15th-best prior-season records.

If you're confused, you're not alone. Multiple NBA players are puzzled by the tournament, including ESPN Analyst J.J Redick. For Steph Curry, it seems he is embracing the tournament.

"This isn't any other Friday night," said Curry. "This is an In-Season Tournament Friday night, baby." This article will explain all of the groups, important dates, court and jersey designs.

Tournament Groups

West A

  • Los Angeles Lakers (Pot 5)
  • Memphis Grizzlies (Pot 1)
  • Phoenix Suns (Pot 2)
  • Portland Trail Blazers (Pot 3)
  • Utah Jazz (Pot 4)

West B

  • Dallas Mavericks (Pot 4)
  • Denver Nuggets (Pot 1)
  • Houston Rockets (Pot 5)
  • Los Angeles Clippers (Pot 2)
  • New Orleans Pelicans (Pot 3)

West C

  • Golden State Warriors (Pot 2)
  • Minnesota Timberwolves (Pot 3)
  • Oklahoma City Thunder (Pot 4)
  • Sacramento Kings (Pot 1)
  • San Antonio Spurs (Pot 5)

East A

  • Atlanta Hawks (Pot 3)
  • Cleveland Cavaliers (Pot 2)
  • Detroit Pistons (Pot 5)
  • Indiana Pacers (Pot 4)
  • Philadelphia 76ers (Pot 1)

East B

  • Charlotte Hornets (Pot 5)
  • Miami Heat (Pot 3)
  • Milwaukee Bucks (Pot 1)
  • New York Knicks (Pot 2)
  • Washington Wizards (Pot 4)

East C

  • Boston Celtics (Pot 1)
  • Brooklyn Nets (Pot 3)
  • Chicago Bulls (Pot 4)
  • Orlando Magic (Pot 5)
  • Toronto Raptors (Pot 2)

After playing four tournament group plays, eight teams will move on to the Knockout round. That will include six group winners in addition to two wild card teams.

Knockout Rounds explained

As previously explained, the eight teams that advance from group play will now play in the knock out round, which are single elimination matchups. First, there will be the Quarterfinals, the Semifinals, following the Championship. Every game is to be counted for the regular season, except for the Championship, which is similar to the WNBA Commissioners Cup Format. As far as home court advantage, the teams with the best record will host the Quarterfinals. The Semifinals and Championship game will be played in a neutral location in Las Vegas.

Key Dates

Quarterfinals: Dec. 4-5
Semifinals: Dec. 7
Championship Game: Dec. 9

Tie breaker breakdowns

The eight teams that advance will be decided by their win loss record in the tournament. If a few teams happen to tie, the NBA has broken down possible tie breaker scenarios :

• Head-to-head record in the Group Stage;
• Point differential in the Group Stage;
• Total points scored in the Group Stage;
• Regular season record from the 2022-23 NBA regular season; and
• Random drawing (in the unlikely scenario that two or more teams are still tied following the previous tiebreakers).

In-Season Tournament Courts

Along with the In-Season Tournaments, the NBA have designed individual courts for all thirty teams. With that, each team will wear city edition uniforms, and each court will draw influence from those. Behind every team's logo is the new trophy, which is placed in the center of the court. Instead of hardwood, each court is painted top to bottom, visualizing each theme. If you didn't know, the horizontal stripe on every court design is meant to represent the airport runway in Las Vegas. Given the Championship is in Vegas, that makes perfect sense.

In a way, custom, alternate courts aren't new in the NBA. More traditional franchises, such as the Boston Celtics, Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, and New Orleans Pelicans will display a new hardwood for the first time.

Thoughts around the league

The addition to the In-Season Tournament and City Edition has gathered mixed reviews from both the fans and the players. A first type of experience in NBA history, the new tournament is inspired by other sports, such as international soccer leagues. While the play-in tournament has become a popular fixture since the Pandemic, the augural In-Season tournament will have to work out the kinks.

Marcus Smart, of the Memphis Grizzlies hasn't won a championship, yet became very close in recent years. On Media Day, the Grizzlies star was honest about the experience, and how it affects him personally.

"Being completely honest, nobody cares about winning the in-season tournament," said Smart, "It's the big one that we care about."

Players including P.J. Tucker and Khris Middleton are optimistic, as it is part of the business, and could potentially bring in more viewership and growth of the game.

For me, I think it's a neat concept. However, I think using the prize pool for the winner's charity of choice would create even more incentive to win it all.

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Sara Jane Gamelli is a full-time Sportswriter at Ballislife, and a Sports Content Creator on Twitch and TikTok. She has a focus on the NBA, WNBA, NCAA Basketball, and the NFL. Sara Jane currently resides in Connecticut with her Cat and Dog. SJ has her undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut in Economics, with a minor in business administration.


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