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NBA likely to add play-in round for playoffs next season

The play-in game was a hit in the bubble, and now the NBA wants to expand that setup in the future.

NBA: Finals-Los Angeles Lakers at Miami Heat Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA is in continues discussions with the NBPA over the logistics and financials of the 2020-21 season. There’s a bunch of back and forth going on that isn’t worth talking about right now, as the situation is extremely fluid and changes on a seemingly daily basis. However, there is one part of conversations that has popped up that seems to be likely to fully come to fruition, and that is a play-in round to determine the seventh and eighth seeds of each respective conference.

The play-in round would function similarly to the one that was used in the Orlando bubble but with a larger scope. It would feature teams seeded seven through ten and act like a ladder, with teams moving up with wins and down with losses. Here’s how it would work:

  • Game 1: The seven seed plays the eight seed. The winner gets the seven seed.
  • Game 2: The nine seed plays the ten seed. The loser is eliminated.
  • The loser of Game 1 plays the winner of Game 2. Winner gets the eight seed, loser is eliminated.

In this system, the teams that end the season in the seventh and eighth spots would only have to win one of two games to stay in the playoffs. The teams sitting ninth and tenth would have to win consecutive games to take a playoff spot.

In the Orlando bubble, the nine seed had to be within four games of the eight seed to trigger the play-in round. It doesn’t appear there will be a similar trigger in the new proposal. Four teams will be involved regardless of their separation in the standings.

This proposal is extremely relevant to the Hornets, who perpetually finish just outside the playoffs. Had this been in effect last season with no coronavirus implications, the Hornets would have had to win consecutive games against the Wizards and either the Nets or Magic. Very doable.