The play-in tournament has been a bit of a debate among NBA circles, with fans and players chiming in on the situation. Critics will point to the increased workload for athletes and the fact that it's a tough sell to play more games during an already condensed season. Supporters will say that it's an opportunity to see more basketball and point to the fact that this tournament has reduced tanking, as well as giving more teams a shot to make the playoffs.
A notable player that has taken a stance against the play-in tournament is LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers. LeBron James has claimed that whoever came up with the play-in should be fired. Recently, the person he was referring to responded to his claims. That person is Evan Wasch, the Executive Vice President of Basketball Strategy And Analytics for the NBA. In an article by Ben Golliver of the Washington Post, it was revealed that Wasch has welcomed James' criticism but pointed to some of the things that make the tournament a great idea.
Obviously, we welcome feedback from our players and teams. But, on balance, we believe the play-in tournament offers more benefits than downsides.
You’ve significantly increased the competitive incentive in a much wider swath of the standings [for teams] to want to move up. The intent is to give more teams, more markets and more fans the feeling that they still have something to play for. On that basis, it’s absolutely been successful.
When you have a play-in … you have to treat every game like a playoff game. That’s what we were trying to create. I understand the view, in retrospect, that this was a tough year to put it in given the changes [like the challenging health protocols and condensed schedule]. The flip side is that our regular season would have been devalued if our teams didn’t have to compete.
Evan Wasch brings up valid points, and there are many teams who still have a shot at the playoffs with this tournament, which means they are likely to try and make it rather than start tanking. While it is understandable that some people would criticize the fact that it was implemented in a tough season, this opportunity allows the end of the regular season to be more exciting, as every game will matter.