How many teams make the NBA Play-In Tournament?

Adam Silver (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)
Adam Silver (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images) /

One of the newer additions to the NBA playoff structure is the play-in tournament in which multiple different teams on the edge of the playoff race play a short set of tournament games to decide who will occupy the final two playoff positions for the NBA postseason. The Pacers have played in it previously, but how does it work?

The play-in has been seen as generally successful in its inaugural years, allowing teams to be more competitive for the playoffs much later into the season than traditionally would have been the case. This has likely also allowed for tanking to be largely curbed by the league.

Here is how the play-in tournament works:

  • The teams that fall in the seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth position in each conference participate in the play-in tournament.
  • The seventh seed plays the eighth seed, with the winner taking the seventh spot in the playoff bracket.
  • The ninth seed plays the tenth seed, with the winner having to move on to play another game to make the postseason.
  • The loser of the seventh/eighth seed game and the winner of the ninth/tenth seed game play each other, with the winner becoming the eighth seed in the playoffs.

Ultimately, it’s a way to get more teams with ample opportunity to get into the postseason, although we have get to see play-in teams see large-scale success in the postseason itself.

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What does it mean for the Pacers?

Currently the Pacers are in the 12th seed in the east and are not slotted to get into the play-in tournament. While they are only 3.5 games behind Washington who is in the 10th seed, it does beg the question, should the Pacers even want to make the play-in tournament?

The answer should be a resounding NO. Even though they would get some national exposure, postseason experience, and financial gain from a potential play-in game, the loss of draft positioning would far outweigh the benefits.