In March, concerns about the coronavirus pandemic led the NBA to suspend the season for an undetermined length of time. Since then, Commissioner Adam Silver and other NBA officials have been trying to devise potential scenarios for altered NBA calendars. According to media experts, the NBA has been willing to consider nearly any plan.
This kind of innovative mindset may end up opening the door for all kinds of permanent changes to the NBA calendar. Well-known podcast host Bill Simmons introduced an interesting idea for a reconfigured NBA season. Of particular interest is his idea for a midseason tournament. Let’s look at how the tournament would work and early fan reactions.
Bill Simmons’ midseason NBA tournament plan
Simmons’ plan begins with a reduction of the number of regular-season games from 82 to 72. The midseason tournament would take place at the 35 game mark — exactly halfway through the season — and last for 10 days. The single-elimination tournament would split up the league according to team records, mostly with no regard for conferences.
The top 14 teams would participate in the Russell Cup, which would take place in New York City. Twelve teams would participate in the first round, then eight teams would compete in the second round. This would leave four teams in the Semifinal, and two teams competing in the championship.
The bottom 16 teams, meanwhile, would head to Las Vegas to play in the Chamberlain Cup. This tournament would also consist of four rounds. As with the regular playoffs, all of the midseason tournament matchups would involve the team with the best record in each round facing off against the team with the worst record.
The beauty of Simmons’ plan
The idea of a midseason tournament is not a new one. In fact, in November, the NBA floated an idea for such a tournament to its board of governors. The main criticism of that tournament idea, however, was that it offered virtually no incentive to the teams involved. With nothing at stakes, most analysts agreed the idea would lead to a halfhearted tournament at best.
Simmons’ idea includes a brilliant incentivization scheme, in which teams earn regular-season wins and even draft assets depending on performances. In the Chamberlain Cup and the first two rounds of the Russell Cup, every win would be reflected in the regular season record.
In the Semifinal round of the Russell Cup, meanwhile, the victor would be awarded two regular-season wins. The overall winner of the Russell Cup would get another four wins added to their record. In other words, the winner of the Russell Cup would come away with a total of eight regular-season victories.
This approach would allow winning teams to significantly improve their seeding for the actual playoffs at the season’s end. In addition, the Russell Cup winner would receive the 31st pick in the subsequent NBA draft. The Chamberlain Cup winner would receive the 32nd pick of the subsequent draft.
Fan reactions to Simmons’ plan
Simmons’ plan generated a lot of thoughts on Twitter and Reddit, with the most people approving of his plan. Fans especially like his incentivization structure. One user, in particular, pointed out that the plan effectively canceled out the “championship or bust” response the NBA’s plan for a midseason tournament provoked from many fans and analysts.
That criticism pointed out — and not incorrectly — that the midseason tournament just wouldn’t matter, and that players would only care about winning the title. Simmons’ tournament idea would give winners a significant leg-up when it came to postseason seeding, thereby increasing their odds of securing a championship victory.