The NBA In-Season Tournament: Impact and Evolution

The NBA In-Season Tournament: Impact and Evolution

Basketball fans will soon have another way to see their favorite teams compete for a title as they roll out the new NBA in-season tournament. The tournament, built into the NBA’s regular season games, promises to bring some new and exciting changes within the 2023 - 2024 basketball season. 

From new and entertaining tournament formats to more chances to support their favorite teams, fans are in for a surprise when the NBA in-season tournament starts on November 3rd and ends with the championship game in Las Vegas on December 9th. 

Whether you support a juggernaut team like the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Phoenix Suns, or Golden State Warriors, or a wild card team that's randomly drawn, the games played in the In-season tournament will be exciting.

Let’s take a look at the new NBA in-season tournament in more detail, focusing on its impact on players, teams, fans, the championship game, and of course, the revenue of the NBA. 

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The genesis of innovation

Basketball fans will know that the current regular season structure has been in place since 1976, when the National Basketball Association merged with the American Basketball Association, creating the teams and game structure fans know and love today. 

Running from October to April each year, the current NBA structure sees teams face each other in 82 thrilling games that draw crowds from across the country. After the pandemic, the NBA introduced the NBA play-in tournament which changed how teams qualified for the playoffs. 

The NBA looks to make changes again, with a fresh new twist in the form of an in-season tournament fans can enjoy a second portion of the NBA season that has more intensity. 

basketball net

A need for change and innovation

Basketball is, and always will be, one of the most popular sports in America. But, over time the NBA has recently faced a remarkable drop in attendance records. So what does the NBA do?

They create an exciting tournament that will have fans heading out in droves to take in the action they are offering. Viewers are in for a treat when you bring together wild cards, top teams to compete, different sub-division matchups, and an In-season championship title.

And while this might be a risky move for the NBA, they are doing it for the fans. 

NBA finally unveiled its annual mid-season tournament | theScore

The In-season tournament: A first of its kind

Buckle up, basketball fans, because the NBA in-season tournament guarantees entertainment like no other. 30 teams from each division come together to battle it out for the title of NBA Cup winner.

With the Eastern Conference and the Western Conference dividing the teams into three groups (Group A, Group B, Group C, etc), each team will play a game against the teams in their pool, totaling four games. Winners of each pool will go on to face each other in the knockout round. 

This is a groundbreaking concept for basketball and is truly a world first for the sport that has its roots in 1946 when the first basketball league was formed in New York City.

And with a history as rich as this, the NBA hopes the in-season tournament will keep fans entertained and engaged.

Tournament format and rules

It’s time to look at the in-season tournament in more detail as we go through the structure, format, and rules of this highly-anticipated new tournament series designed to inject more excitement into the game of basketball. 

The structure of the in-season tournament

The in-season tournament doesn’t increase the number of NBA games; it is built into the 82 NBA game season and offers two stages within the tournament. 

The stages are as follows:

  1. Group Play: 30 teams divided into groups of five compete in the group play stage. Each team will play against each opponent once, totalling four group-stage games. 

  2. Knockout Round: The eight teams from the group play stages will advance to the knockout round, where single-elimination games are played to determine the winner. 

Rules and incentives of the in-season tournament

The rules for the in-season tournament are much the same as the standard rules set forth by the NBA. But, the incentives, such as games being broadcasted nationally (an opportunity for smaller team to increase their fanbase) and the chance for teams to compete for a new trophy - the NBA Cup.

The tournament also includes a prize pool available for teams that advance to the knockout rounds, with the amount allocated to each team based on their progress. 

The NBA In-season pool cash prizes:

  • Winners of the NBA Cup: $500,000 per player

  • Team reaches In-season finals: $200,000 per player

  • Team reaches semifinals: $100,000 per player

  • Team reaches quarter-finals: $50,000 per player

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Energizing players and teams for regular season games

The in-season tournament has the potential to inject some much-needed excitement and energy into the current NBA season. 

The tournament allows teams to take part in more than just regular season games and a potential playoff journey, it gives teams a chance to practice for the intense environment of a playoff or championship game.

It also gives the coaching staff the ability to evaluate players who can perform in an intense short playoff atmosphere while being able to win the NBA Cup, cash prizes, and bragging rights. 

This, too, gives players another chance to push their team to its limits and show off their skills on the court. 

Can the in-season tournament boost team morale and chemistry?

We’d like to think that it will, as teams will battle it out for a cash pool prize based on their performance. This likely means that players will stand together to increase the size of their pool prize. 

Teams will also be performing on a more elevated stage than the regular season, which means the competitiveness of players and the support of fans will also come into play.  Best of all, this tournament will unveil issues or offensive/defensive strategies that teams need to work on. 

Team morale is an important factor in the success of any sports organization, and the introduction of the in-season tournament may be just what the NBA needs to bring its teams closer together.

cheering and watching sports

Engaging the fans

Any sport is only as great as its fans. And in the case of basketball, the NBA relies on the support of their fans to perform at their best.

The introduction of the in-season tournament is just another of the NBA’s fantastic efforts to engage with fans as they bring them a captivating and exciting way to enjoy their favorite sport. 

The In-season tournament also allows fans to experience the championship game in Las Vegas, where the NBA will have additional ways, events or performances to engage fans.

NBA has also always led the sports industry by captivating fans using their social media platforms, the in-season tournament will give the league more ways to interact with and celebrate their fans on a weekly basis.

Check out your favorite team's social media pages to see how you can get in touch with your team. 

Building new rivalries and storylines

Basketball fans are dying to know if the in-season tournament will create new rivalries among teams. And yes, we believe they will.

The framework of the new tournament is competitive, giving rise to more than a few new rivalries based on performance, standing, and who comes out tops in each grouping.

These new groupings might be just what is needed to inject some new life and excitement into the upcoming NBA season. 

The NBA in-season tournament impact on playoff picture and seeding

We all know that current NBA standings affect playoff standing and seeding. How would the new in-season tournament affect this? And would we see any major changes in how players are seeded, or teams are chosen for playoffs?

To put it simply, no. There will be no change to the NBA playoff picture and seeding. As for the in-season tournament, matches are based on current performance and standings. 

Teams will be divided according to their current standings and will face off against other teams with the same standing. 

Players and teams should strive to do their best in both the regular NBA season and the in-season tournament. 

Player development and bench utilization

The in-season tournament gives coaches a high-level event to evaluate the performances of all players, including bench players and rookies, in higher stake games.  

Each player will need to bring their A-game to ensure that their team makes it through to the next round and to gain the trust of the coaching staff and teammates based on their performance. 

Will Good Teams Avoid Winning The In-Season Tournament? | JJ Redick

Criticisms and controversies

Not everyone is a fan of the NBA’s new in-season tournament, and here’s why:

  • The matches add no value to the current season

  • The intense matches are an injury risk to star players ahead of the NBA playoffs

These are just a few of the opinions that have been shared ahead of the new in-season tournament that will see its start in November 2023. 

Player workload and fatigue concerns

As we highlighted above, the NBA season is already a busy one. Even so, the in-season tournament doesn’t add more games to the schedule; however, the new playing atmosphere, media coverage, and intensity of the tournament can add more mental stress to the players.

Adding additional stress onto players can be seen as a recipe for disaster as players may experience more injuries. 

The coaching staff will be responsible for guiding the team and its players on how to approach this in-season tournament game, as they have the ability to bench or rest players so they don’t face unnecessary injury. 

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Looking ahead: Evolution and expansion

Those in the industry have speculated that the newly launched in-season tournament will bring about a positive change in the world of basketball.

With new and exciting opportunities to give underdogs and poorer performing teams the chance to walk away with a title (and a handsome cash prize), teams will perform at their best to ensure that they make their mark at the in-season tournament come the 2023/2024 basketball season. 

While there is no data to show us exactly how this will bring about growth in the sport, we know that it will bring more revenue opportunities for the NBA as sponsors can now purchase advertising space during the tournament and for the final game.

The NBA is known to engage fans every step of the way, so don’t be surprised if the NBA creates special merchandise to highlight the NBA in-season tournament and the NBA Cup.

The evolution of the NBA can only be a good thing as it gives rise to new challenges and opportunities for all thirty teams in their divisions. 

Frequently asked Questions

The NBA in-season tournament is built into the NBA regular season bracket schedule and promises to bring new intensity and exciting changes within the 2023 - 2024 basketball season as teams compete for the NBA Cup title.

Why has the NBA added the in-season tournament?

By adding the in-season tournament, the NBA is providing teams and players with another opportunity to win a title, drive additional interest, and engage with fans in a new and exciting format within the regular season.

When is the in-season tournament?

The inaugural in-season tournament will start on the 3rd of November, and the in-season tournament trophy will be lifted by the winning team on the 9th of December.

Where is the in-season tournament being played?

All tournament team games will be played in the NBA team markets with the exception of the semifinals and the championship game which will be held at the T Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, which is a neutral site.

Which teams are participating in the in-season tournament games?

All 30 regular season teams are participating in the group stage games, called Group Play games. Eight teams will then advance to the 2nd stage, of single-elimination games.


The in-season tournament is a new and exciting challenge that NBA teams will soon face when basketball season kicks off in October of this year. 

Comprising of 21 games on an elevated stage for each team, the in-season tournament is yet another chance for teams to showcase their talents and pick up a coveted NBA Cup and a cash prize for their efforts. 

Created for the fans, the in-season tournament will engage and entertain fans like never before and promises to add more value to the basketball experience. 

Get in on the action and purchase your ticket for the upcoming in-season tournament. Support your favorite team, cheer for the underdog, and experience the thrill and excitement of the 2023-2024 basketball season at its best. 

Thalia Oosthuizen has been writing in a professional capacity for over a decade. Her love for sports has led her down the path of sports writing, where her passion and skills combine. Thalia is a runner, cyclist, and swimmer, and enjoys playing tennis and hockey. Her favorite sports teams include Chelsea F.C. and the Georgian Lions Rugby Club.

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