How does the NBA In-Season Tournament work?

Minnesota Timberwolves Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Minnesota Timberwolves Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

With the Minnesota Timberwolves’ offseason rolling on, many are looking ahead to a new twist set to take place during the 2023-24 NBA season. A concept that the league had already announced would be implemented has now been officially organized: an In-Season Tournament.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver had hinted at this idea for months as a way of introducing further incentive to winning in the regular season, and to drum up greater interest among fans as well. The In-Season Tournament will include all 30 teams in the association.

At the conclusion of the tournament, one team will be presented with a brand new award called the NBA cup. Given that this tournament is an entirely new concept, let’s break down exactly how it will work.

How does the In-Season Tournament work?

The NBA hosted an event on Saturday evening where league and team representatives introduced the event and explained how it will operate. With all 30 clubs participating, they will be broken down into six groups for the tournament. Three groups in the Western Conference, three in the East.

The grouping was determined by a random draw based on each team’s regular season records from the 2022-23 season. The teams in each group of five will play against each other in what will be called group play.

During group play, each team will face the four opponents from their group in what will essentially be regular season games. The only difference is that a team’s record in these games will determine if they advance in the tournament.

A total of eight teams will move on to the knockout round. The team with the top record from each group will advance, in addition to one extra team from each conference (wild card team) with the next best record. From there, bracket-style play will ensue, with the championship round taking place in Las Vegas from December 7-9.

How does the tournament affect the Minnesota Timberwolves?

The Minnesota Timberwolves were placed into West Group C. The four other teams in their group are the Kings, Warriors, Thunder, and Spurs. So they will play each of these teams one time on Tuesday and Fridays in November, with their record in these games going toward tournament play.

The Wolves will have two home and two away contests against their foes from Group C. Assuming they can pick up four wins, they will be on their way to the quarterfinals against the other group winners. If they fail to secure the best record in the group, they will have to hope for a wild card bid.

Overall, this tournament could serve as a sort of preview for the NBA Playoffs. For hungry and underrated squads like the Timberwolves, it will be an excellent opportunity to prove they deserve to be mentioned with some of the top-tier squads in the NBA.

Younger players that have not had a chance to play in the playoffs yet will get a new stage to showcase their talent with this new tournament. Winning an In-Season Tournament will never carry as much weight as winning a championship, but this should be an interesting wrinkle for the upcoming season regardless.

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