The National Basketball Association (NBA) gets millions of viewers for its playoff tournament every year. But fans have to wait until the very end of the season for those matchups to take place. A new in-season tournament, however, is sure to add excitement to the regular season well before the playoffs begin.
What is the NBA in-season tournament?
The NBA in season tournament is a regular season tournament involving all of the teams in the National Basketball Association (NBA). The tournament lasts for several weeks, starting with group play and progressing to knockout rounds.
Why is the NBA having an in-season tournament?
The purpose of the NBA in season tournament is to generate more interest in the league, particularly toward the beginning of the regular season when ratings tend to be lower. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has advocated for the tournament for years, both to raise the profile of the league and to generate more revenue during the early portion of the season.
The NBA has also been inspired by the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) and a number of European sports leagues who have hosted similar tournaments. The WNBA Commissioner’s Cup was established in 2021 and has helped boost interest in the league and encouraged new sponsorships. Silver has taken inspiration from European soccer as well, where tournaments often run concurrently with the regular season.
Does the NBA have an in-season tournament this year?
The inaugural in-season tournament for the NBA will be held this year. In November and December 2023, all teams in the league will participate in the tournament, which culminates with a championship game in Las Vegas.
NBA in-season tournament format
The tournament will begin with group stage games, with six groups of five teams. Every team will have four group stage games, meaning that they’ll have a chance to play against every other team in their group. Two of each team’s group stage games will be at home, and two on the road.
Based on the outcomes from the group stage, eight of the 30 NBA teams will proceed to the knockout rounds. The team who finished in first place in each group will advance, along with one wild card team from each conference. The wild cards will be selected from the second-place finishers in each group based on which two have the best records in their conference.
In the knockout rounds, every matchup is an elimination game, meaning that the losing team of each game is automatically removed from the competition.
- 8 teams will compete in the quarterfinals
- 4 teams will compete in the semifinals
- 2 teams will compete in the championship game
In total, there will be 67 games across the entire NBA in-season tournament.
If two or more teams have tied records after the group stage, the following tiebreakers will be used in this order to determine who advances to the next stage of the tournament:
- Head-to-head record in the group stage
- Point differential in the group stage
- Total points scored in the group stage
- 2022-23 NBA regular season record
If two or more teams are still tied after these tiebreakers (which is very unlikely), the team(s) to advance will be selected in a random drawing.
What NBA teams are in what division for the tournament?
For the in season tournament, all 30 teams in the NBA have been placed into one of six groups within the Eastern Conference and Western Conference:
East Group A
- Philadelphia 76ers
- Cleveland Cavaliers
- Atlanta Hawks
- Indiana Pacers
- Detroit Pistons
East Group B
- Milwaukee Bucks
- New York Knicks
- Miami Heat
- Washington Wizards
- Charlotte Hornets
East Group C
- Boston Celtics
- Brooklyn Nets
- Toronto Raptors
- Chicago Bulls
- Orlando Magic
West Group A
- Memphis Grizzlies
- Phoenix Suns
- Los Angeles Lakers
- Utah Jazz
- Portland Trail Blazers
West Group B
- Denver Nuggets
- Los Angeles Clippers
- New Orleans Pelicans
- Dallas Mavericks
- Houston Rockets
West Group C
- Sacramento Kings
- Golden State Warriors
- Minnesota Timberwolves
- Oklahoma City Thunder
- San Antonio Spurs
To create these groups, the teams in each conference were first placed into one of five “pots” based on their record from the 2022-23 regular season. Every group has one team from each pot, which was drawn at random:
- Pot 1: Teams ranked 1-3 in each conference
- Pot 2: Teams ranked 4-6 in each conference
- Pot 3: Teams ranked 7-9 in each conference
- Pot 4: Teams ranked 10-12 in each conference
- Pot 5: Teams ranked 13-15 in each conference
How many NBA teams are in the in-season tournament?
All 30 teams in the NBA will participate in the in-season tournament. Each team will sport special NBA City Edition jerseys during the tournament, and their home courts will feature distinctive designs during tournament games.
NBA in-season tournament schedule
The NBA in season tournament will take place within the regular season schedule. The tournament nights are scheduled for every Tuesday and Friday from November 3-28, with the exception of Tuesday, November 7 for Election Day. The full schedule for the group play stage of the 2023 NBA in-season tournament can be found here.
The knockout rounds of single-elimination games will begin with quarterfinal games on December 4 and 5. The semifinal games will take place on December 7, and the championship game is scheduled for December 9.
The semifinal games and the championship game will be held at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. All other games will be played in NBA team markets.
Which NBA tournament games will air on TV?
During the group play stage, 14 games will be televised nationally (two on each tournament night). All seven knockout round games will be aired on TV as well: four quarterfinal games, two semifinal games, and one championship game.
How can I watch the NBA in-season tournament?
Select group play games for the NBA in season tournament will air nationally on ESPN or TNT at 7:30 pm and 10:00 pm ET. The games which will be televised are noted on the group play schedule along with the network and air time. The broadcast schedule for the knockout rounds has not been announced yet, but fans can expect most or all of those games to be televised nationally.
Local television stations will air the games which are not scheduled for national TV. The TV schedule for the NBA tournament group stage with local listings can be found here.
NBA in-season tournament prizes
The NBA in-season tournament will have a prize pool allocated to teams that participant in the knockout rounds. The farther a team advances in these rounds, the more prize money will be awarded.
Top performers will be recognized after the conclusion of the tournament, including a Most Valuable Player of the In-Season Tournament and an All-Tournament Team. These honors will be awarded based on performances in the group stage and knockout rounds.
What do you get for winning the NBA in-season tournament?
Each player on the winning team in the NBA in season tournament will receive $500,000. The runners-up will receive $200,000 each. The players on the teams that lose in the semifinals will each receive $100,000, and the losing players from the quarterfinal knockout round will each receive $50,000.
What trophy will the champion of the in-season tournament receive?
The team that wins the tournament will be awarded the NBA Cup. This is a new trophy created specifically for the NBA in season tournament.
How will the in-season tournament affect the rest of the season?
There are 82 NBA regular season games. The games played during the in-season tournament will count toward this total, with the exception of the championship game. The results from the tournament games will also count toward each team’s regular season record.
Each team will start the 2023-24 season with 80 scheduled regular season games. The final two regular season games will be determined by their performance in the tournament:
- The 22 teams that do not advance to the knockout rounds of in-season tournament games will play against other teams no longer in the tournament on December 6 and 8. For these two games, one will be at home and one will be an away game.
- The four teams that lose in the quarterfinals will play each other on December 7 (the two losing teams from the East conference will play each other, and the two teams from the West will play each other). This matchup, plus their quarterfinal game, accounts for the additional two games needed to fill their regular season schedule.
- The two teams that lose in the semifinals will have already played the additional two games to complete their regular season schedule: their quarterfinal game and their semifinal game.
- The two teams that play in the championship game will have their quarterfinal game and their semifinal game count as the additional two games to complete their regular season schedule. The championship game will not count toward regular season standings for either team.
The benefit of having these games count toward the regular season standings is that it incentivizes every team to play their best and avoid resting their top players. However, no teams will be automatically awarded spots in the playoffs based on the outcome of the in season tournament.