The NBA has announced the five-team groups that will used for the league’s first-ever in-season tournament, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. The unveiling took place Saturday during a special episode of ESPN’s “NBA Today” held at “NBA Con” in Las Vegas.
The groups were determined in a draw similar to what is used in soccer’s World Cup. There are six groups — three each from the Eastern Conference and Western Conference — and each conference was split into five pots based on last season’s standings. One team was randomly selected from each of the pots to determine the opening-round matchups.
The results are:
- Group 1: Sixers, Cavaliers, Hawks, Pacers and Pistons.
- Group 2: Bucks, Knicks, Heat, Wizards and Hornets.
- Group 3: Celtics, Nets, Raptors, Bulls and Magic.
- Group 4: Grizzlies, Suns, Lakers, Jazz and Trail Blazers.
- Group 5: Nuggets, Clippers, Pelicans, Mavericks and Rockets.
- Group 6: Kings, Warriors, Timberwolves, Thunder and Spurs.
The tournament will start with group play, which will match each team with the other four in its grouping. Those games will take place on Nov. 3, 10, 14, 17, 21, 24 and 28.
The winner of each group will advance to a knockout round, joined by the team with the best record in each conference among those who didn’t win a group. Quarterfinal games will be played Dec. 4 and 5, hosted by the higher-seeded teams. The four winners in that round will move on to T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for the Dec. 7 semifinals and the Dec. 9 championship game.
Bontemps points out that all teams will play within their conference until the last game, which guarantees an East vs. West matchup, just like the NBA Finals.
“Everybody’s not going to buy in right away,” admitted Joe Dumars, the NBA’s executive vice president of basketball operations. “So that can’t be the goal that everybody’s going to buy in from day one. These things take time. And I think, as time goes on, I think you can build this up and people can really get into it.”
The championship trophy will be called the NBA Cup, and players will receive $500K each for winning it. Other prize money includes $200K for second place, $100K for losing in the semifinals and $50K for losing in the quarterfinals. The league opted not to provide other incentives, such as a guaranteed playoff spot, for the tournament winner.