NBA: In-season tournament another event for bettors to enjoy

By Jonathan Von Tobel  (Senior NBA Analyst) 

July 8, 2023 08:34 PM

The NBA is no stranger to innovation, and its latest attempt at drumming up interest in its regular season comes in the form of an in-season tournament which begins next season. For bettors, it's another event that will hit odds boards around the world. Even though the season is months away, let's take this opportunity to evaluate the format so bettors can be ready when the tournament begins.

The Format

All 30 teams will be split into six groups, with three groups in each conference. Those groups were announced on Saturday.

Those groups were determined by a random drawing based on last season’s records, and they are considered to be seeds. For example, Memphis is the top seed in West Group A, Phoenix is the second seed and so on.

Each team will play each opponent in its group one time for a total of four games, one home and one away. Top seeds in each group will play at home against the second and fourth-seeded teams, and they will go on the road against the third and fifth-seeded teams. 

The entire scheduling format can be viewed here.

Group play will be considered regular season games, with those contests taking place every Tuesday and Friday from Nov. 3-28 (with the exception of Election Day on Nov. 7).

From there, eight teams will advance into the knockout stage of the tournament: the teams with the best records from each group and two wild cards which will be the team from each conference which finished with the best record in group play that finished second.

The first round of the knockout tournament will be played on the higher-seeded team’s home floor on Dec. 4 and Dec. 5 before the event moves to Las Vegas for the semifinals and championship rounds.

The Betting Perspective

There are quite a few people who are skeptical about this idea from the NBA, but bettors should be thrilled for another event to wager on. This will likely lead to futures markets on the tournament winner as well as group winner futures markets. The league will also crown a tournament MVP which will almost certainly be offered at most shops as well.

Player motivation is always a question when it comes to regular season games during an NBA season, and the league has attempted to drum up motivation with the prize payouts for the winning teams. The team which wins the tournament will be awarded $500,000 for each player, and the payouts continue down to the losing team in the quarterfinals. For those like LeBron James, who is set to make $47.6 million next season, that grand prize may not seem like much. However, the payout combined with the games counting toward seeding should mean teams treat these with some urgency.

This will also be a unique opportunity to see NBA teams play one another on a neutral court in games that actually matter. There are some single regular season games played in Mexico City and other global sites throughout the world, but this will be four teams playing on a neutral in the same building. It will be a good opportunity to see what the market believes homecourt is worth in the season, and what a true difference is between two teams in a market power rating.

The play-in tournament was widely criticized when it was first introduced, but it has become a phenomenal addition to the league. For bettors, it has added options to the betting menu like odds on teams to participate in the play-in tournament. The in-season tournament might be something different, but it could definitely evolve into a fantastic betting event in the winter.

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