The NBA’s inaugural In-Season Tournament tipped off in early November, with all 30 teams being randomly drawn into six groups of five teams. With just one night of group play remaining, Tuesday’s eight games will decide the four wild cards (two from each conference) and the remaining group winners.
To advance to the knockout rounds, a team needs to either finish atop their group or secure a wild card spot (the squad from each conference that placed second in its group and had the best record in Group Play games).
Beyond bragging rights and a potentially lucrative prize pool split amongst the winning team, the Tournament is likely to influence betting lines, sportsbook welcome bonuses, and odds as the season progresses, such as the evolving NBA Futures odds. So, keep reading to find out what exactly this new tournament is and which teams are likely to take home the trophy.
How the Groups Are Shaping Up
There have been familiar storylines and surprising results throughout the In-Season Tournament as the teams compete to lift the first-ever NBA Cup. Here are the results of each group:
East Group A
Perhaps the surprise of the Tournament has been the Indiana Pacers. With their 4-0 record in group play, the Pacers have clinched the top spot in East Group A, largely behind the exceptional play of Tyrese Haliburton. In his fourth year in the league, Haliburton is averaging career highs in points (25.4) and assists (12.1) per game.
West Group A
With the final night of Group Play set to tip off just hours from now, the only other team to clinch their In-Season Tournament Group is the Los Angeles Lakers. In his 20th season, LeBron James is averaging 25.5 points, 8 rebounds and 6.6 assists per game and has his team sitting atop West Group A, having defeated the Suns, Jazz, Trail Blazers and Grizzlies.
East Group B
Leading East Group B, the Milwaukee Bucks (3-0) are just one game ahead of the New York Knicks and Miami Heat, both with 2-1 records. Milwaukee can clinch the group Tuesday night if the following occurs: a win over Miami, or NYK victory + MIL wins tiebreaker over NYK and MIA. On the other hand, if Miami wins and the NYK lose, or, if the Heat win and also win the tiebreaker over the Bucks and Knicks, they clinch Group B.
West Group B
Heading west, the Pelicans (3-1) currently lead West Group B. Perhaps most surprising about this group is the defending champion Denver Nuggets (2-2) being out of contention for the Knockout Round. Similarly, Luka Dončić and Kyrie Irving’s Mavericks (1-2) and the LA Clippers (1-3), with their newly-formed Big 3, will be watching the rest of the In-Season Tournament from home. The Pelicans are led by a trio of stars, with the majority of points per game coming from Brandon Ingram (24.6), Zion Williamson (23.2) and CJ McCullum (21.7). So long as Houston loses to Dallas, the Pelicans clinch Group B.
East Group C
Another team that few expected to advance in the Tournament, the Magic, lead Group C in the East. In the same group as the Boston Celtics, Orlando is surprisingly 3-1 in group play. The young Magic are playing inspired basketball, led by third-year coach, Jamahl Mosley. Currently second in the Eastern Conference and riding a seven-game winning streak, Orlando will advance to the knockout stage with a Brooklyn loss or a Boston victory, so long as they win the tiebreaker over the Nets and Celtics.
West Group C
Led by the In-Season Tournament’s leading scorer, De’Aaron Fox (39.5 points per game), the Sacramento Kings lead West Group C over the Timberwolves and Warriors, both with 2-1 records. To win their group, the Kings simply need to beat the Warriors on Tuesday night. If they fall to Steph Curry’s squad, Sacramento can still advance with a Minnesota victory if they win the tiebreaker over both Minnesota and Golden State.
Wild Card Quest
Phoenix Suns (3-1)
While the Suns’ new big 3 have yet to take the court together this season, Phoenix is still playing great basketball. Currently riding a seven-game winning streak, the Suns are climbing the Western Conference standings and putting the league on notice. Even without star guard Bradley Beale, they are a force.
While Kevin Durant (31.4 PPG) and Devin Booker (29.4 PPG, 8.9 assists per game) pace the team, the Suns are getting great contributions from their bench too). Phoenix clinches the wild card with a Minnesota loss, or, if they win the tiebreaker over any second-place team from the other groups that finish 3-1. Don’t be surprised if Phoenix ends up winning the whole tournament.
Cleveland Cavaliers (2-1)
Led by Donovan Mitchell’s second-best 38 points per game, the Cavs secure the wild card if any of the following takes place:
1) CLE victory + NYK loss + MIA loss + BOS loss + BKN loss OR
2) CLE victory and wins tiebreaker over any second-place team from other groups with a 3-1 record.
How the Tiebreakers Work
If there is a tie between two or more teams in a group, the tie will be broken using the following tiebreakers:
- Head-to-head record;
- Point differential;
- 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).
The league’s first In-Season Tournament has been a major success so far. And, as the tournament advances to single-elimination games, the action and viewership is set to ramp up. Tune in as the Quarterfinals tip off next week and be sure to catch the Championship game on Saturday, December 9.