Overall, despite what has transpired in their last two outings, the Dallas Mavericks have really turned things around this season since falling to a 9-14 record back on February 4th. The team is now sitting at 29-24 and 7th in the West with some sort of postseason action looking like a sure thing at this point — it just might not be a full traditional playoff series.
In previous seasons, being in the 7th or 8th spot in the conference standings at the end of the regular season guaranteed you a playoff berth. That’s no longer the case now, however, as the NBA will showcase their new play-in tournament for seeds 7-10 this year.
Here is how the play-in tournament is set up:
Game 1 — The No. 7 seed will play the No. 8 seed. The winner of this game secures the No. 7 seed. The loser will get another opportunity to secure a playoff spot in Game 3.
Game 2 — The No. 9 seed will play the No. 10 seed. The winner of this game moves on to Game 3 for a shot at the final playoff spot. The loser of this game is eliminated from playoff contention.
Game 3 — The loser of Game 1 and the Winner of Game 2 will face off in a winner-take-all matchup to determine the No. 8 seed in the playoffs.
Although the Mavs would love to jump into the Top-6 in the Western Conference and guarantee themselves a full playoff series, there’s a very real chance that the team ends up in a play-in situation, especially if they keep having occasional off nights like they have against the Houston Rockets and the San Antonio Spurs in the last week. Losses to true contenders like the 76ers on Tuesday night are disappointing, but they aren't nearly as disappointing as losing games against team below you in the standings.
With the play-in tournament being an increasingly likely possibility for the Mavs, what does Mark Cuban think of the NBA’s new setup? He visited with DallasBasketball.com briefly on Monday to give his two cents.
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“I think it's good for the NBA financially and interest-wise,” says Cuban. Having more teams in the playoff hunt creates more fan interest in end-of-the-season games that might not have been as appealing to some in previous year. This works out well for the NBA from a financial standpoint as it tries to recoup some of the money lost last year due to COVID-19.
However, even though Cuban generally thinks the play-in is a good idea overall, he’s not a big fan of its formatting.
“I think it's not so good as a playoff format,” says Cuban. “I would rather just see us go 1-to-10. The current approach doesn't take into account how competitive the league is now and how hard it is to win games.”
Cuban has a point. Take his Mavs for example. If the season ended today, Dallas would finish the regular season a full four games ahead of the current No. 10 seed Golden State Warriors. If Dallas ends up going home early, while the Warriors ended up making the postseason, what does that say about the real importance of the regular season? Obviously, the Mavs would still be in the driver's seat, given that they'd only have to win one game out of potentially two to secure a playoff spot, but it's uncomfortable to think that a couple of really off shooting nights could send the team packing before the postseason begins, effectively wasting all the work they did in-season.
Mavs superstar Luka Doncic shares those same sentiments.
"I don't understand the idea of the play-in (tournament),” said Doncic after the Mavs loss to the 76ers on Tuesday. “You play 72 games to get in the playoffs, then maybe you lose two in a row and you're out of the playoffs. I don't see the point of that."
Cuban also made it known that if there's going to be a permanent playoff format change going forward, he prefers the idea of the NBA eliminating conferences and going with a straight 16-team playoff. After being in the daunting Western Conference year after year, can you blame him? The Mavs are currently clinging to the No. 7 seed in the West, but if they were in the East, they'd be the current No. 4 seed with a real shot at securing home-court advantage.
Whether this year's play-in tournament becomes the norm going forward has yet to be seen, but it looks like the Mavs are going to end up getting their first experience with it this season, and hopefully it will be one that sees their season extend to the actual postseason when the dust settles.