The Memphis Grizzlies are gritting their teeth and gearing up for a competitive final stretch of regular season play.
The team is competing for a final spot in this year’s NBA play-in tournament.
Memphis Grizzlies take advantage of new play-in format
With two weeks of the regular season left and a current No. 9 seeding, Memphis has a chance to qualify for the play-in tournament this year.
The Grizzlies haven’t made the NBA playoffs since 2017. With the play-in tournament format, the team has a chance once again.
Last season, the Grizzlies qualified for the play-in before losing to the Portland Trail Blazers. As it stands now, Memphis could face off against the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of action this year. But with eight games left in the season, things could still shift drastically between now and then.
While some may see the league’s new play-in as an added workload before the playoffs, others see it as an opportunity for success. Grizzlies rookie guard De’Anthony Melton says the race for a Western Conference play-in entry has put the team’s development on the fast track.
The new format keeps the team focused on winning as many games as possible to enhance its ranking by the end of regular season.
Twenty-two year-old Memphis point guard Desmond Bane also sees it as a welcomed challenge:
“I think it’s something that will bring great experience and something that myself and our organization will be able to build off of in the future. The work is not done. We still have two weeks left to solidify ourselves, and I’m looking forward to it.”
While the team may be optimistic, the Grizzlies still have a long way to go in the eyes of sportsbooks. At DraftKings Tennessee, Memphis has +155 odds of making the playoffs.
Odds of them becoming the Pacific Division Winner sit at +2000, which is a far stretch from where the Dallas Mavericks sit at -10000.
For those looking to bet on the Memphis Grizzlies in tonight’s game, the team is currently a three-point favorite over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
How does a play-in tournament work?
The concept of a play-in tournament was implemented for the first time last season as a new way for the NBA to decide which eight teams make it to the playoffs from each conference.
Before the play-in tournament existed, the top eight seeds advanced to the playoffs after regular season. Now, only the top six seeds from each conference are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs. The remaining two teams must earn their way in through the play-in tournament.
The tournament features three games each for both the Western and Eastern Conferences, pitting the four teams sitting in seventh to 10th place against each other.
The seventh- and eighth-place teams face off for a chance to claim the seventh seed.
The ninth- and 10th-place teams also go head to head. The loser of this game is eliminated, while the winner goes on to face the loser of the seventh- and eighth-place game for the title of eighth seed.
This year’s play-in tournament runs from May 18-21 following regular season play. The playoffs then begin immediately after.
The NBA tweeted out the latest NFL Playoffs picture this morning.
Mark Cuban, Luka Doncic criticize play-in format
Many teams, like the Memphis Grizzlies, support the NBA’s new concept of a play-in tournament. Others, however, are doling out a good deal of criticism.
Luka Doncic was one of the first to find fault with the format:
“I don’t understand the idea of a play-in, 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.”
Mark Cuban, owner of the Mavericks, also expressed his disapproval. Although the NBA Board of Governors, which includes Cuban as a member, unanimously approved the play-in concept, he has since referenced the concept as an “enormous mistake”.
Cuban says the most concerning part of this idea is the added strain it puts on athletes.
“The worst part of this approach is that it doubles the stress of the compressed schedule. 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 6 since the consequences, as Luka said, are enormous. So players are playing more games and more minutes in fewer days.”
This year’s calendar has, in fact, become more demanding. Last season’s schedule saw an average of 3.42 games per week, while teams average up to 3.75 games per week with the current schedule.
For teams that rely on resting their All-Star players during back-to-back games, this new play-in format presents a challenge.
For others like the Grizzlies, it is merely another opportunity for a slam dunk. The team controls its own destiny for this year’s NBA Playoffs.