2023 In-Season Tournament

In-Season Tournament 101: Rules, format and how it works

The inaugural 2023 In-Season Tournament ended with the Lakers defeating the Pacers in the championship game from Las Vegas.

NBA In-Season Tournament Explained

The NBA In-Season Tournament is a new annual competition for all 30 teams and debuted for the 2023-24 season.

For more info, read the frequently asked questions summary.

Get more info on In-Season Tournament tie-breakers.

I. Summary

The inaugural In-Season Tournament tipped off on Friday, Nov. 3 and will culminate with the Championship on Saturday, Dec. 9.  The Semifinals (Thursday, Dec. 7) and Championship will take place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. For a complete schedule, click here.

The In-Season Tournament will consist of two stages: Group Play and the Knockout Rounds.

  > A. Group Play

All 30 teams have been randomly drawn into groups of five within their conference based on won-loss records from the 2022-23 regular season.  Beginning Nov. 3 and continuing through Tuesday, Nov. 28, each team will play four designated Group Play games on “Tournament Nights” – one game against each opponent in its group, with two games at home and two on the road.

  > B. Knockout Rounds

Eight teams will advance to the Knockout Rounds:  the team with the best standing in Group Play games in each of the six groups and two “wild cards” (the team from each conference with the best record in Group Play games that finished second in its group).  The Knockout Rounds will be single-elimination games in the Quarterfinals (played in NBA team markets on Monday, Dec. 4 and Tuesday, Dec. 5), Semifinals and Championship.  The qualifying teams will compete for a prize pool and the new In-Season Tournament trophy, the NBA Cup.

All 67 games across both stages of the In-Season Tournament will count toward the regular-season standings except the Championship.  Each team will continue to play 82 regular-season games in the 2023-24 season, including those games that are part of Group Play and the Knockout Rounds.

Fourteen Group Play games (two games on each Tournament Night) and all seven Knockout Round games will be televised nationally.  The game and broadcast schedule for the In-Season Tournament will be announced in August.

II. Tournament Detail

 > A. Group Play Draw

To determine each team’s opponents in the Group Play games, the 15 teams in each conference were divided into three groups of five teams via a random drawing. The groups are below:

Western Conference

West Group A West Group B West Group C
Memphis Grizzlies Denver Nuggets Sacramento Kings
Phoenix Suns LA Clippers Golden State Warriors
L.A. Lakers New Orleans Pelicans Minnesota Timberwolves
Utah Jazz Dallas Mavericks Oklahoma City Thunder
Portland Trail Blazers Houston Rockets San Antonio Spurs

Eastern Conference

East Group A East Group B East Group C
Philadelphia 76ers Milwaukee Bucks Boston Celtics
Cleveland Cavaliers New York Knicks Brooklyn Nets
Atlanta Hawks Miami Heat Toronto Raptors
Indiana Pacers Washington Wizards Chicago Bulls
Detroit Pistons Charlotte Hornets Orlando Magic

Before the drawing, each team was placed into a “pot” based on its record from the prior regular season (2022-23).  In each conference, one team from each pot was randomly selected into each of the three groups in that conference.  The pots were as follows:

• Pot 1: The teams with the three best prior-season records in a conference.
• Pot 2: The teams with the fourth- through sixth-best prior-season records.
• Pot 3: The teams with the seventh- through ninth-best prior-season records.
• Pot 4: The teams with the 10th-through 12th-best prior-season records.
• Pot 5: The teams with the 13th-through 15th-best prior-season records.

 > B. Group Play

Tournament Nights will take place every Tuesday and Friday from Nov. 3-28 (with the exception of Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 7, when no games will be played). The only NBA games played on Tournament Nights will be Group Play games. Group Play games will count as Regular Season games for all purposes.

A team will play each of the other four teams in its group in one Group Play game. A team’s record in these four intraconference games will determine whether the team qualifies for the Knockout Rounds.  In the event two or more teams are tied within a group, the tie among the teams will be broken according to the following tiebreakers (in sequential order):

  • Head-to-head record in the Group Stage;
  • Point differential in the Group Stage;
  • Total points scored in the Group Stage;
  • Regular season record from the 2022-23 NBA regular season; and
  • Random drawing (in the unlikely scenario that two or more teams are still tied following the previous tiebreakers).

Eight teams will advance to the Knockout Rounds: the team with the best standing in Group Play games in each of the six groups and one wild card team from each conference.  The wild card will be the team from each conference with the best record in Group Play games that finished second in its group.  In the event two or more teams are tied for the wild card in a conference, the tie among the teams will be broken following the same tiebreaker protocol as described above (with the exception of the head-to-head record in the Group Stage). Ties within groups will be broken before the calculation of wild card tiebreakers.

 > C. Knockout Rounds

The Knockout Rounds will consist of single-elimination games for the eight teams that advance from Group Play, beginning with the Quarterfinals on Dec. 4-5.  Teams that win will progress to the neutral-site Semifinals on Dec. 7, and then the Championship on Dec. 9.

Games played in the first and second rounds of the Knockout Rounds (i.e., Quarterfinals and Semifinals, respectively) will count as Regular Season games for all purposes.  The Championship will not be counted as a Regular Season game (e.g., such game would not count toward a team’s Regular Season record and a player’s or team’s performance in such game would not count towards Regular Season statistics).

In each conference, Quarterfinal games will be hosted by the two teams with the best record in Group Play games, and the team with the best record in Group Play games will host the wild card team.  In the event two or more teams are tied for the higher seed in a conference, the tie among the teams will be broken following the same tiebreaker protocol as described above.

During the Knockout Rounds on days when In-Season Tournament games are not scheduled (Wednesday, Dec. 6 and Friday, Dec. 8), the 22 teams that do not qualify for the Knockout Rounds will each play two regular-season games.

A formulaic approach will determine the matchups for these games using the Group Play standings in each conference (5th-15th).  Two of the 22 games will be scheduled cross-conference since there will be an odd number of teams in each conference that do not advance to the Quarterfinals.  These cross-conference games will be scheduled between bottom-finishing teams in the Group Play stage subject to travel constraints, and no team will play more than one of its two games cross-conference.  The other 20 games will be scheduled within conference featuring teams that are otherwise scheduled to play each other three times over the course of the season wherever possible.

The four teams that lose in the Quarterfinals will each play a regular-season game on Friday, Dec. 8, against the opponent in their same conference.

III. Prizing and League Honors

For the 2023-24 season, the In-Season Tournament prize pool will be allocated to the players on the teams that participate in the Knockout Rounds, with allocations increasing depending on how far a team progresses in the tournament.

At the conclusion of the In-Season Tournament, the NBA will name the Most Valuable Player of the competition and the All-Tournament Team. Selection will be based on the players’ performance in both Group Play and the Knockout Rounds.