Within the last 24 hours, Mavericks star Luka Doncic and team owner Mark Cuban have each criticized the concept of the NBA’s play-in tournament, as Tim MacMahon details in a pair of stories for ESPN.com.
Cuban is part of the NBA’s Board of Governors, which unanimously approved the proposal to implement a play-in tournament for the final two playoff spots in each conference. However, it sounds like the Mavericks owner is having second thoughts about the concept, calling it an “enormous mistake” to introduce the play-in games during a compressed season.
“The worst part of this approach is that it doubles the stress of the compressed schedule,” Cuban told ESPN. “Rather than playing for a playoff spot and being able to rest players as the standings become clearer, teams have to approach every game as a playoff game to either get into or stay in the top six since the consequences, as Luka said, are enormous. So players are playing more games and more minutes in fewer days.”
Cuban’s comments came the day after his franchise player offered his own criticism of the play-in idea.
“I don’t understand the idea of a play-in,” Doncic said on Monday. “You play 72 games to get into the playoffs, then maybe you lose two in a row and you’re out of the playoffs. So I don’t see the point of that.”
The play-in tournament will pit the seventh and eighth teams in each conference against one another, with the winner securing the No. 7 seed. The loser of that game will then face the winner of a game between the ninth and 10th seeds for the final playoff spot.
Cuban’s complaint about implementing the play-in tournament during a compressed schedule is valid, since teams are more concerned than ever about keeping players healthy while playing 72 games in 146 days (instead of the usual 82 in 177) following a shortened offseason.
Still, it’s hard to separate Cuban’s and Doncic’s critiques of the play-in tournament from Dallas’ place in the standings. The Mavericks currently have a 29-24 record, putting them seventh in the West and two games back of the sixth-seeded Trail Blazers. It’s perhaps no coincidence that Cuban offered an alternate solution that would allow the Mavs to avoid a play-in game.
“I get why the NBA is doing it,” Cuban said of the play-in tournament. “But if we are going to be creative because of COVID, we should go straight up 1-20 and let the bottom four (seeds) play in.”
If the league were to seed teams regardless of conference, allowing the top 12 to secure automatic postseason berths while the next eight participated in a play-in, the Mavs would be in better shape — they hold the NBA’s 10th-best record.