Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James recently criticized the NBA’s new play-in structure and suggested whoever concocted the idea should be fired. The architect of the play-in disagrees.
That “play-in guy” is Evan Wasch, the NBA’s Executive Vice President of Basketball Strategy & Analytics and the same person who developed the league’s new All-Star format.
Wasch told Ben Golliver of the Washington Post he understands the Lakers star’s critiques and general skepticism around the league. But he feels there is more upside to the play-in than downside:
“Obviously, we welcome feedback from our players and teams,” Wasch said through a league spokesperson, via Golliver. “But, on balance, we believe the play-in tournament offers more benefits than downsides.”
Wasch said the implementation of the play-in is meant to give more fans a reason to stick with their team through the end of the season as well as to create a more competitive atmosphere:
“You’ve significantly increased the competitive incentive in a much wider swath of the standings [for teams] to want to move up,” Wasch said, via Golliver. “The intent is to give more teams, more markets and more fans the feeling that they still have something to play for. On that basis, it’s absolutely been successful.”
The play-in is only sort of in play for LeBron and the Lakers.
Los Angeles is currently sixth in the Western Conference standings. However, the Lakers have a 4.5-game advantage over the eighth-seeded Golden State Warriors. They would have to stumble quite a bit down the stretch to find themselves in the play-in tournament.
Although the play-in is a polarizing idea in league circles, Wasch feels it will eventually be embraced.