Ever wondered what would happen if the NBA decided to spice things up mid-season? Well, hold onto your jerseys, because the NBA in-season tournament is here to dunk a whole new level of excitement into our regular basketball schedule. Think of it as the NBA's way of borrowing a leaf from European soccer's book, but with more bounce!

The tournament is designed to add a competitive edge to the regular season games by introducing a new trophy - the NBA Cup. Teams battle through group play games and knockout rounds, all while keeping an eye on their regular season standings. It's like trying to keep a basketball spinning on your finger while doing a handstand - complex but thrilling!

How does the NBA in-season tournament work?

The NBA In-Season Tournament consists of a series of games integrated into the regular season schedule, culminating in a final round where the top teams compete for a separate championship title.

Teams qualify for the final based on their performance in designated tournament (Knockout round) games.

Breaking Down the Tournament Structure

The NBA in-season tournament is composed of two parts:

  1. group play
  2. knockout rounds

Teams are divided into 3 different groups (A, B, C) based on their performance from the previous season. Each team plays 4 group games against their opponents to qualify for the Knockout Rounds.

The NBA in-season tournament isn't just a few extra games thrown into the mix. It's a meticulously planned event divided into 3 groups per conference.

Each group, let's say East Group B or West Group C, consists of five teams. These teams play 4 group stage games (which count as a regular season game) adding a layer of strategy to their regular season record.

In-Season tournament draw
Source: https://www.nba.com/news/in-season-tournament-101

From there, the top two teams from each group, based on record in group play and previous tiebreakers like head to head record and group stage point differential, advance to the knockout rounds.

Eight teams compete in the knockout rounds; where the magic happens, with quarterfinal games escalating to a high-stakes championship game.

NBA in-season tournament standings (2023)
Source: https://www.nba.com/news/nba-in-season-tournament-key-dates-schedule

The Stakes Are High!

Imagine playing in a high-octane environment where every game could dramatically alter your team's path to glory. That's the daily reality for NBA teams during this tournament. The winning team not only gets a shiny new trophy, the NBA Cup, but also a hefty slice of the prize pool. And let's not forget the bragging rights that come with being the inaugural in-season tournament champions.

Players aren't left out of the rewards either. The standout star of the tournament snags the Most Valuable Player award, adding a prestigious accolade to their career highlights. This isn't just about the money; it's about etching your name in the annals of NBA history.

How does this affect regular season play?

Integrating the tournament games into the regular season schedule means every match counts twice as much. A win in the group play not only edges a team closer to the tournament trophy but also bolsters their regular season record. It's a strategic puzzle, where coaches must balance their squad rotation, keeping players fresh for regular season games and tournament battles.

For teams that lose in the quarterfinals or don't qualify for the knockout rounds, there's still a silver lining. These games played are valuable experiences and also count towards their regular season standings. It's a no-lose situation, but with a lot of potential gains, especially for teams looking to build momentum or shake off a slump.

Fan Zone: More Than Just Games

For NBA fans, the in-season tournament is like a mid-season playoff series. It's an opportunity to see teams from the same conference, which might not often clash, go head to head in high-stakes games. The atmosphere is electric, with each game carrying the weight of a playoff. Fans get to engage in new and exciting ways, whether through fantasy leagues, betting, or simply enjoying the intensified competition.

In Season Tournament NBA FAQs

Browse through our frequently asked questions to learn more.

How are teams selected for the NBA in-season tournament?

Teams are divided into three groups within their conference based on geographical alignment and previous season records to ensure balanced competition.

What happens if teams are tied in the group stage?

Tiebreakers are applied in the following order: head to head record, group stage point differential, and total points scored in the group stage.

Does the NBA in-season tournament affect the players' regular season stats?

Yes, all stats accumulated during the tournament games count towards players' regular season statistics, making every game crucial for players chasing personal milestones.

Is the NBA in-season tournament replacing the regular season?

No, the in-season tournament is an addition to the regular season games and does not replace any games.

Will all teams participate in the in-season tournament?

Yes, all 30 NBA teams will compete in the tournament.


The NBA in-season tournament is a bold experiment, infusing fresh excitement into the league's regular rhythm. It challenges teams to elevate their game, engages fans with high-stakes matchups, and rewards outstanding performances with both monetary prizes and prestigious awards. As this tournament evolves, it could very well become a beloved staple of the NBA season, much like the All-Star Game.