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NBA Mulling Playoff Format Changes

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The NBA has never been afraid of making changes to improve the game as a whole. The league just recently changed the All-Star Game format, which allows the top vote-getters to draft teams instead of conferences and it's been a massive success. It's also making an effort to combat tanking by changing the draft lottery.

Lately, Adam Silver has been looking at changing the format of the playoffs. He's considering a 1-16 format that would just take the 16 teams with the best record, essentially ignoring conferences. According to Zach Lowe of ESPN, that isn't the only change the NBA is exploring. A play-in tournament to decide the final two seeds of the playoffs is apparently gaining momentum around the league.

Recent comments from NBA commissioner Adam Silver about tweaking the league's playoff format drew intense media coverage, but sources say there is also some behind-the-scenes momentum for the idea of a play-in tournament determining the last two seeds in each conference -- to the point that two specific proposals are circulating at the highest levels within teams and the league office.

The play-in proposal that has generated the most discussion, according to several sources: two four-team tournaments featuring the seventh, eighth, ninth, and 10th seeds in each conference. The seventh seed would host the eighth seed, with the winner of that single game nabbing the seventh spot, sources say. Meanwhile, the ninth seed would host the 10th seed, with the winner of that game facing the loser of the 7-versus-8 matchup for the final playoff spot.

The implementation of a play-in tournament is not imminent. It falls behind the one-and-done rule and perhaps reseeding the playoffs 1-16 regardless of conference in the current reform pecking order. (It could go hand-in-hand with that change, only with one play-in tournament instead of separate brackets for each conference.)

A play-in tournament is an interesting idea. The idea itself sounds pretty gimmicky, but it's not entirely different from wild cards in other sports like football and baseball. However, those sports don't have more than half of the league making the playoffs already. Extending that number to include even more potential playoff teams sounds extreme.

This sounds like one of those ideas that could gain some momentum, but never come to fruition. A single-elimination winner-take-all game sounds fun in theory, but it would oversaturate a schedule that already has 82 games with a massive playoff field. It's just not necessary. 

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