KEY POINTS

  • LeBron James criticized the NBA's play-in format
  • Commissioner Adam Silver wants the format to stick for good
  • Six lottery-bound teams from previous seasons would have benefitted from the play-in format

After the Los Angeles Lakers suffered another disappointing loss at the hands of the Toronto Raptors on Sunday, LeBron James ripped the NBA's play-in format.

"Whoever came up with that s--- needs to be fired," the irate superstar said following a 121-114 defeat.

Ironically, if the Lakers season continues to unravel, they might have no other recourse but to depend on the play-in for their title repeat hopes.

The defending champions are 36-28, in a three-way tie from fifth to seventh with the Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers. 

News also just broke out that starting point guard Dennis Schroder will be placed in health and safety protocols for 10 to 14 days, further complicating their problems.

Before implementing this season, the league first experimented with a play-in format during the shortened 2019-20 season when it returned from suspension due to COVID-19.

Commissioner Adam Silver and the Board of Governors saw an opportunity to test the idea. In the Western Conference, the eighth-seeded Blazers edged the ninth-ranked Memphis Grizzlies to secure the final playoff slot.

Silver remarked that he wants the play-in series to stick for good. In retrospect, the format could have actually turned around the playoff fortunes of six lottery-bound teams if it was implemented way back.

2012-13: Utah Jazz, Dallas Mavericks

No thanks to the competitive imbalance in the two NBA conferences, the 2012-13 season saw both a 43-39 Utah team and a 41-41 Dallas side fail to qualify in the West, while a mediocre 38-44 record was good enough for the Milwaukee Bucks to get the eighth seed in the East.

The Bucks obviously faltered against the eventual champions Miami Heat led by James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh.

2013-14: Phoenix Suns  

Before making the playoffs this year and ending an 11-year drought, the Suns came close to a postseason berth with a 48-34 record.

However, that was only good for ninth in the West, behind the Mavericks' 49-33 slate. Had the Suns played in the East, it would have yielded them the fourth seed.

There weren't many standout contenders in the inferior conference during that time, with the 38-44 Atlanta Hawks making the playoffs.

Kevin Durant OKC Thunder Kevin Durant's injury makes the Oklahoma City Thunder longshots to win the 2015 NBA Finals. Photo: Reuters/Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

2014-15: Oklahoma City Thunder

As if a trend back then, the same occurrence took place the season after the 38-44 Brooklyn Nets made the East first round.

In contrast, a 45-37 Oklahoma City Thunder squad missed the playoffs in the West.

In terms of win-loss record, the Thunder were tied with the New Orleans Pelicans but did not qualify due to a tie-break.

It would have been better if a game or two decided who catches the last bus to the postseason.

Dwyane Wade Dwyane Wade is planning to run his own team soon and it could be the Miami Heat. Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat and Team LeBron follows through on a three point shot against Team Giannis in the first quarter during the NBA All-Star game as part of the 2019 NBA All-Star Weekend at Spectrum Center on February 17, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Photo: Getty Images/Streeter Lecka

2016-17: Miami Heat, Denver Nuggets

As parity returned to a much-more balanced Eastern Conference, more competitive playoff-seeking teams emerged.

Wade's Heat wound up with a 41-41 record but were only ninth behind the Chicago Bulls' identical .500 finish.

A knockout match would have drawn great interest between the rivals. In fact, the Bucks and Indiana Pacers weren't significantly better, only ahead by one game at 42-40 for the sixth and seventh spots.

In the West, the Nuggets narrowly missed with a 40-42 card, behind the 41-41 Blazers. 

2017-18: Denver Nuggets  

Denver would return the next season with a more impressive campaign behind Nikola Jokic, Gary Harris and Jamal Murray.

Unfortunately, their 46-36 finish which could have been sixth in the East, was only good for ninth in the West.

There has also been a clamor for the NBA to just take the best 16 teams regardless of their division or conference and have them seeded straight one through 16, like the NCAA March Madness.

However, logistical issues, including travel, will have to be considered, as well as fatigue in players.

But amidst criticism from James, Mark Cuban, and more, the league is coordinating with its stakeholders to bring fans the best NBA experience each year.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver could be looking at a 2020-21 season that tips off in late December and finishes in time for league players to compete in the Tokyo Olympics next July, according to multiple reports Friday NBA commissioner Adam Silver could be looking at a 2020-21 season that tips off in late December and finishes in time for league players to compete in the Tokyo Olympics next July, according to multiple reports Friday Photo: GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Kevin C. Cox