The 2023-24 NBA season may only have gotten underway last week, but this year, teams won’t need to wait until the NBA Finals in June to have the chance of lifting some silverware.
This season, the NBA has introduced a brand new In-Season Tournament – presumably the name is still being workshopped – which will consist of a group stage and then a knockout round, which includes the semifinals and the final being played in Las Vegas.
The winner will lift the NBA Cup – but how will it work exactly? We’ve included everything you’ll need to know in our guide below.
How to watch
In the US, 14 group games and all seven knockout-round games will be nationally televised on ESPN or TNT, while international viewers will be able to watch on NBA League Pass.
The inaugural In-Season Tournament begins on November 3 and ends with the championship game on December 7 – and every game except the title game will count towards regular season standings.
All 30 teams leaguewide were placed into pots based on their finishing position last season, before the 15 teams in each conference were randomly drawn into three groups of five.
Group A: Memphis Grizzlies, Phoenix Suns, LA Lakers, Utah Jazz, Portland Trail Blazers
Group B: Denver Nuggets, LA Clippers, New Orleans Pelicans, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets
Group C: Sacramento Kings, Golden State Warriors, Minnesota Timberwolves, Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs
Group A: Philadelphia 76ers, Cleveland Cavaliers, Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers, Detroit Pistons
Group B: Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks, Miami Heat, Washington Wizards, Charlotte Hornets
Group C: Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, Orlando Magic
Every team will play the others four teams in their group once – with each playing two home and two road games – and all group stage games will be played on designated ‘Tournament Nights’ every Tuesday and Friday from November 3 to 28, with the exception of US Election Day on November 7.
The winners of the six groups will advance to the knockout rounds and they will be joined by one wild card from each conference, awarded to the second-placed teams with the best records.
The knockout games will all be single elimination, with the quarterfinals taking place on December 4 and 5 and being played at the home arena of the two teams with the best group stage records in each conference. The team with the best record in each conference will host the wild card team.
The semifinals and then the final will take place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
The prize pool will only be divided between the teams that reach the knockout stages, and the further a team progresses, the larger the portion of the prize pool they will receive for their players.
The tournament will also name an MVP and an All-Tournament team.
For years, the NBA has been trying to come up with ways of making the entirety of the marathon 82-game season more relevant to viewers, attempting to draw in the more casual fans who perhaps won’t tune in until after Christmas, or even the playoffs.
The league went some way towards rectifying this issue during the Covid-enforced ‘Bubble’ at Disney World in Florida in 2020, creating a ‘Play-In’ between the teams finishing 7th-10th in each conference to decide the final two playoff spots in each conference.
Such was the format’s overwhelming success, the Play-In has been a feature in every season since, prolonging the competitiveness of several teams as they hope to finish 10th and play at least one postseason game, when otherwise they may have already started tanking for a better draft position.
The NBA will, of course, be hoping for similar success for the In-Season tournament.