NBA Reportedly Considering Shortening Regular Season, Introducing An In-Season Tournament And Re-Seeding Conference Finalists

nba schedule changes

Getty Image / Brian Rothmuller

The NBA regular season and playoff structure may be undergoing a drastic change in every way imaginable as early as the 2021 season.

From a shortened regular season, a really cool idea of an in-season tournament and re-seeding during the playoffs the NBA could look a lot different.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe, two of the most highly respected people in the NBA media world, are reporting the news.

The NBA is engaged in serious discussions with the National Basketball Players Association and broadcast partners on sweeping and dramatic changes to the league calendar that include a reseeding of the four conference finalists, a 30 team in-season tournament, and a postseason play-in. These scenarios include the shortening of the regular season to a minimum of 78 games.

Discussions are progressing with hopes of bringing a vote to the April meeting of the league’s Board of Governors that would introduce some — if not all of these proposals — into the NBA’s 75th anniversary season of 2021-2022, league sources said.

In proposals that include adoption of in-season tournaments and post-season play-in, the traditional regular season schedule would be reduced from 82 games — with most teams charted to play 78 or 79 games. There’s an extremely limited possibility of a team playing a maximum of 83 games based on upon possible tournament and play-in scenarios, league sources said. For the in-season tournament, the NBA is focused on 30-team participation that begins with a divisional group stage of scheduled regular-season games.

Those pre-knockout round games will be part of the regular season schedule. Six divisional winners — based on home and away records in the group stage — and teams with the next best two records would advance to a single-elimination knockout round, league sources said.

Those teams could each potentially compete in quarterfinals, semifinals and finals.

As far as when the in-season tournament would be, the report suggests that the NBA and NBPA are in discussions for a post-Thanksgiving time frame with the tournament extending into mid-December.

When it comes to the play-in game scenario, it’s an interesting one as well as brought forth in the example below.

The two four-team tournaments featuring the seventh, eighth, ninth, and 10th seeds in each conference. The seventh seed would host the eighth seed, with the winner of that single game earning the seventh spot, league sources said.

The ninth seed would host the 10th seed, with the winner of that game facing the loser of the 7-versus-8 matchup for the final playoff spot.

It’s a lot of information to take in, but the biggest takeaway here is that the NBA could look extremely different in two seasons. One thing is for sure, too, it would be a wild ride.

Mark Harris avatar
Mark is an associate editor and the resident golf guy here at BroBible. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @ItIsMarkHarris. You can reach him at