In an effort to continue modernizing the NBA and providing a way to keep fans entertained throughout the league’s lengthy 82-game regular season, Adam Silver has officially pioneered the NBA In-Season Tournament. Inspired by the international popularity of soccer in-season tournaments, this move just might dramatically alter the intensity of early-season games, and could even provide the Chicago Bulls with an opportunity to bring home some hardware.
This year, the Bulls will join the Celtics, Nets, Raptors, and Magic in the East C pool. The NBA posted all six groups on their Twitter account yesterday, with all the official rules of the newly-established In-Season Tournament here.
If the NBA’s new In-Season Tournament had been established one year earlier, the Chicago Bulls would have performed surprisingly well.
If the NBA In-Season Tournament had existed last year and the Bulls drew the same group as they have for the inaugural event, things would have played out much better for them than expected. In fact, here’s how each team would have fared head-to-head in Group Play last season if we counted the first home and away meeting between each team.
East C Standings
- Bulls (7-1)
- Celtics (5-3)
- Nets (5-3)
- Raptors (3-5)
- Magic (0-8)
As you can see, the Bulls started things off shockingly strong, which helps explain how the team managed to secure the top spot in the Eastern Conference entering the new year. In fact, the only team to take a single game from the Bulls was the eventual Eastern Conference Finalists in Boston.
In what appears to be a preview of what actually happened in the NBA Playoffs, the Miami Heat (6-2) would upset the Milwaukee Bucks (4-4) to win the East B group, while the Philadelphia 76ers (7-1) would claim the East A title in our hypothetical scenario. The Bulls won their games with a +66 margin of victory, while the 76ers narrowly edged out Chicago at +73, meaning they’d claim the first seed in this tournament.
NBA In-Season Tournament Bracket (If it existed in 2022)
- 76ers vs Celtics
- Bulls vs Heat
- Suns vs Warriors
- Nuggets vs Mavericks
From there, Philadelphia would have matched up against the Wild Card winner Celtics, while the Bulls would have taken on the Heat in the Round of 8. Ironically, this would also be a preview of the play-in tournament, where Chicago narrowly lost to Miami to claim the last spot in the NBA Playoffs. While the Heat did end up making the most of this victory, you can count me among the many fans who believe the Bulls were just one Diar DeRozan courtside appearance short of playoff qualification.
All this is to say that despite the skepticism surrounding the introduction of this event, I do believe there’s an opportunity for it to catch on and help provide a reason to tune in during the dog days of a long, grueling NBA season. Just like we witnessed with the Play-In Tournament, it turns out even the harshest critics can be converted into fans. As it turns out, high-stakes basketball is fun to watch! Who could have imagined?
So even if your favorite basketball limps to a poor finish and signing Patrick Beverley ends up being the only exciting thing to happen to your franchise in the final couple of months of the regular season, that doesn’t have to be the end all be all. As much as I’d enjoy watching the Chicago Bulls hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy, I don’t think I’d turn my nose up at the idea of winning an NBA Cup either. And if the results of last year are anything to go by, that’s not as far-fetched as it may sound.