I think I've been pretty damn consistent when it comes to the NBA's play in tournament. I think the format needs to be tweaked slightly, but if you don't want to be in it, win more. As someone who now roots for a team that has officially punched their ticket to this thing, my stance is pretty simple even if the Celts were to finish in 7th. If they didn't want to be in it, stop losing to the worst goddamn teams in the league. They didn't, so I'm not going to complain in the slightest about now being a part of this new idea.
Let's not forget about the overall goals of this tournament. First, money. It's always about the money. But then there's the idea of finding a way to make the end of the regular season competitive in an effort to limit teams that might just punt on the last few weeks of the season and tank. You're never going to fully get rid of tanking, but there's no denying that this idea has helped. These last few days of the NBA season are infinitely more interesting than before this thing existed. We're coming right down the the wire and almost every single game still has playoff seeding implications. That's a huge win.
In the East, things are mostly about what combination of matchups we'll get because the four teams are pretty much locked. I don't see the Bulls catching the Wizards unfortunately. In the West though, that's where this idea is really shining. Here we are, with only 2-3 games left and seeds 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 are technically ALL still up for grabs. That's pretty insane. The teams we're talking about for those spots are loaded with stars too.
You have Dame/CJ, Luka, LeBron/AD, Steph Curry, and Ja Morant. The Blazers finish with PHX/DEN which is awesome. Both teams are going to still be in it and trying. The Mavs have TOR/MIN, that's a good sign for them as a team that's won 8 of their last 10. The Warriors have NO/MEM, you think that Grizzlies game is going to be important? The Grizzlies finish with SAC/SAC/GS and sit just 0.5 games behind them for the 8 seed. The Lakers close with IND/NO, two games that are definitely winnable with LeBron back.
The big thing here is a potential LAL/GS matchup. For the Lakers to get out of this spot they not only need to win out, but they need one of POR and DAL to go 0-2. They lost the H2H series matchup to both DAL/POR which is why. The Blazers get 7th if they go 0-2, Lakers go 2-0, and DAL goes 2-0 or 1-1. It makes your head spin trying to figure all this shit out but all I know is that it rules. You're telling me you wouldn't watch Curry vs LeBron? Or maybe Curry vs Dame or Curry vs Luka? As we know, anything can happen in a singular NBA game.
Then you start to think about what the potential West play in tournament means for the higher seeds. If the Lakers end up in 7th, well both UTA and PHX are going to try like hell to get that #1 seed. Who wants to face a healthy and rested LeBron/AD in the first round? That's a wrap for you, sorry. Will the Nuggets really want the 3 seed and pass the Clippers if it means a date with the Mavs? A team they lost 2 of 3 against? Or should they stay in the 4 spot and maybe face the Blazers, who they haven't lost to? Let's say the Lakers find a way to get to 6th, well that could give us LAL/LAC in Round 1. Might that interest you?
The point is, none of this stuff is possible without the play in. In a previous season, nobody gives two shits about the last 3 games of the season. Teams certainly are not playing their best players with the playoffs right around the corner. Now, you kind of have to. Looking at it that way, I don't know how you could argue that this isn't an awesome idea that has been a smashing success.
By all accounts we're heading for an absolutely wild postseason this year. I can't remember a season where it was this wide open. The fact that the excitement and pressure starts even earlier is fantastic for everyone involved. I would get used to this idea if I were you, because there's no chance it's going anywhere.