In-Season Tournament Highlights 2023-2024 NBA Schedule
The NBA has released its full schedule for the 2023-2024 regular season, and it will begin on October 24 and finish on April 14. The All-Star break is scheduled for February 16-18, and the first annual in-season tournament will be held from November 3 to December 9.
The current NBA schedule only accounts for 80 games. But the usual 82 regular season games will be played. The final two games that each team plays will be determined by how well each team does in the in-season tournament.
For the in-season tournament, the league has been broken into six groups – three groups of five teams in each conference – and each team will play everyone in their group once.
Each group winner will advance to the knockout stage of the tournament, as well as two wild cards. For the 22 teams that don’t advance beyond the group stage, they will have games 81 and 82 scheduled against other non-advancing teams.
Those eight advancing teams will play in the quarterfinals, with the higher seed playing at home on December 4 and 5. The four winning teams will move on to Las Vegas and play the semifinals on December 7 and the title game on December 9.
All games will count in the regular season standings except for the championship game. The two teams in the final will be playing an 83rd for the season, and that game will be treated like an exhibition. The winner gets the NBA Cup and $500,000 per player ($200,000 for each runner-up). But they will not get a win added to their record.
Each semifinalist losing player will be given $100,000, and the losing quarterfinalists will get $50,000 each.
The Six In-Season Tournament Groups
The NBA did a drawing to decide the groups, based on last year’s regular season record. Each of the 15 teams in a conference were added to five different drawings. The first drawing was for teams ranked 1-3 in record. The second drawing was for teams 4-6, and so on.
In the end, five teams each were drawn, with one team from each tier in the standings.
Group East A: Philadelphia 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers, Detroit Piston.
Group East B: Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets.
Group East C: Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, Orlando Magic.
Group West A: Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers.
Group West B: Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Clippers, New Orleans Pelicans, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets.
Group West C: Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs.
The group stage games will be played on each Tuesday and Friday in November, with the lone exception coming on November 7 (election day).
Why the NBA Has Created the In-Season Tournament
Since the end result of the in-season tournament is just one extra game on the schedule from previous seasons, why is this being done? Simple. Television ratings, ahead of signing a new media rights deal that would begin for the 2025-2026 season.
The current deal with Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery pays the NBA $2.66 billion per year through the end of the 2024-2025 season. Negotiations are currently underway on a new deal, at the same time that regular season viewership is slipping.
The NBA Playoffs remain popular, with an average of 5.47 million viewers per playoff game this past season. But the 2022-2023 regular season drew just 1.59 million viewers per game, which is down 16% from five years ago.
With the NBA hoping to at least double its current media rights deal and get in the neighborhood of $5 to $8 billion annually, the sliding ratings are not a good look.
Players engaging in load management have contributed to the drop in ratings. The league is hoping that the in-season tournament and the monetary incentives behind it will get more stars to play more games early in the season.
But consider that Jaylen Brown of the Celtics just signed a contract that pays him more than $60 million per season. NBA salaries are paid in 24 bi-monthly installments, meaning that every two weeks Brown gets a check for $2.5 million. Is a guaranteed $100,000 for making the semifinals (0.16% of what he makes annually) really an incentive?
Bookmaker BetUS.com has the Celtics as the favorite to win the inaugural NBA Cup, paying +600. The defending NBA champion Nuggets are second at +700.