It has been reported recently that NBA commissioner Adam Silver is discussing implementing some sweeping changes to his league. The one that makes the most sense is re-seeding teams in the conference finals — meaning, theoretically, we would get the best possible matchup in the Finals. I like that. Also on the table: a play-in tournament for the final two playoff spots in each conference. I like that less, but I don’t hate it. And then there is the one that has received the most pushback: a separate in-season tournament, sort of like the FA Cup in the Premier League. (The latter two ideas would require shortening the season to somewhere around 78 games, by the way.)
I haven’t seen a full proposal for what this tournament would entail, but in the abstract, I don’t understand. The FA Cup and the U.S. Open Cup (the American version) are both open to teams at all levels, so theoretically, some lower division side could end up beating Manchester City in a final and obviously everyone gets the appeal of that. Would the NBA’s tournament be open to G League teams? Or other minor leagues? Or even teams from leagues around the world? From what I understand at this moment, it’s just NBA teams. So, what would be the point?
I thought about this last night and came up with a pretty complicated solution that is unnecessary, unwieldy, probably fun, and definitely won’t happen, so it checks every box for me. And it starts in Dallas*.
- The first round of the tournament would take place at AT&T Stadium, after training camp but before the beginning of the regular season, and would essentially also serve as a kind of giant second media day for the entire league. An NBA convention, more or less. The field would have two courts on it, with four games happening simultaneously. Which is possible because the first round of this tournament is 2-on-2, played to 15 by ones and twos, winner has to win by two. Each team would pick two players (with an injury alternate; but once the injury alternate plays, the player he replaced can’t play again). Every team plays every other team, top 16 teams advance. (Tiebreakers, in order: point differential overall, point differential per game, guessing the number between 1-100 written in a sealed envelope.)
- Second round: takes place during an expanded All-Star Game week in the host city, and now we are playing 3-on-3, by Big3 league rules. (There is a 4-point shot.) The field of 16 will be separated into two eight-team divisions and, again, play round robin style. Top four teams in each advance. (Same tiebreakers; if both are the same distance from the number, then it goes to halfcourt shots — most in a minute moves on.)
- Now it’s a single elimination tournament and five-on-five, held at the beginning of a new two-week break between the regular season and playoffs, at Madison Square Garden (all ticket sales and concessions go to a charity, because I want the games at a basketball temple but I don’t want James Dolan to get a cent). There are two twists. The first one: each team gets to pick one (1) player from one of the second-round teams that didn’t make it through, and once a non-advancing team has had a player picked, they are off-limits. (If the Mavs picked up James Harden, for example, no one could pick Russell Westbrook.) And also: no coaches. Or, rather, player coaches. That way we won’t have someone running Luka Doncic through screens for 48 minutes so he’s worn out for the playoffs. The rosters are capped at 10, including the pickup players.
The winner of the tournament gets a trophy or cup or whatever and $10 million (put up by sponsors) to split however they want to. Next question?