If the NBA wanted competition to be fierce for the newly created NBA Cup, they should not have limited incentives to just the financial bonuses for teams escaping Group Play. Adam Silver missed a golden opportunity to dangle an additional first-round pick to reward the teams that make it to the final game on Dec. 9th in Las Vegas.
With better foresight, the NBA could have rewarded the winner of the In-Season Tournament the 15th pick in the upcoming June draft. They also could have rewarded the runner-up with the last pick in the first round (32nd) of the NBA Draft. Having both teams in the final game guaranteed to walk away with additional draft capital to spend at the trade deadline would have added an extra layer of drama to the Semifinals of the tournament. While it is easy to see the value of the 15th pick, the importance of a first-round pick, even the last one, cannot be overlooked.
The market at the trade deadline is greased by draft picks each year. Franchises selling rotation upgrades often target packages comprised of draft picks and matching salaries. Teams such as the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers and Milwaukee Bucks have already spent their first-round draft capital in trades. Winning the In-Season Tournament could have allowed them to keep up with the other contenders.
The elite stars chasing the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy know the importance of having assets available to add the missing piece to their rotation, even more so when their rivals improved. The superstars on those contenders want their teams to be buyers at the deadline – not sitting idle. Winning that additional draft pick could help their legacy if they measure their success in rings.
The NBA may have missed their chance for the inaugural year. However, it is not too late for any future iterations of the In-Season Tournament.