Are the Sacramento Kings part of the best NBA Play-In Tournament yet? 

Sacramento Kings v Golden State Warriors
Sacramento Kings v Golden State Warriors / Ezra Shaw/GettyImages

The Play-In Tournament as we know it now was first played in 2021 and has been a widely successful addition to the playoff race. It adds spice and drama to the final stretch of the regular season, as more games still matter. Rather than seeing packed injury reports and squads resembling G League teams playing ugly games, we get to see the stars competing. 

Especially in the West, this season’s Play-In Tournament is a death trap. All the teams in that territory are well above .500 and deserving of playoff spots. Not everyone can make it, however, and at least two deserving squads will have to go home early. 

The East is not looking quite as great with the Bulls and Hawks sitting in ninth and tenth despite having losing records. The West makes up for that, however. Filled with star power and playoff teams, this might be the best Play-In Tournament yet. 

Which teams competed in previous Play-In Tournaments?

In 2021, the Play-In Tournament featured the Lakers, the Warriors, the Grizzlies, and the Spurs in the West and the Celtics, the Wizards, the Pacers, and the Hornets in the East. The Celtics and the Grizzlies were still much younger and inexperienced than they are now, the Warriors just came off a bad losing season, and the Lakers were haunted by injuries. 

Still, this tournament featured a lot of star power between youngsters like Ja Morant and Jayson Tatum and established names like LeBron James and Stephen Curry. 

A year later, Minnesota, New Orleans, and Cleveland burst on the scene as play-in teams alongside the Clippers, Spurs, Hawks, Nets, and Hornets. With the Nets, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant competed in the Play-In Tournament. Other stars in the tournament were Paul George and Trae Young alongside rising stars Darius Garland and Anthony Edwards. 

In 2023, the West Play-In Tournament featured three young teams. The Timberwolves, the Thunder, and the Pelicans all made it next to the Lakers, who would end up going all the way to the conference finals. In the East, Atlanta, Toronto, Chicago, and Miami were the four teams competing for the final playoff spots. 

The Heat pulled off some of the greatest playoff upsets we have seen in recent years and went all the way to the NBA Finals. So, between them and the Lakers both making deep playoff runs the 2022-23 Play-In Tournament definitely featured some great teams. 

Is this season’s Play-In Tournament in the West the best one yet?

Simply considering star power, this season’s Play-In Tournament in the West might be the best one yet. If the season ended today, it would feature Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, CJ McCollum, LeBron James, Anthony Davis, De’Aaron Fox, Domantas Sabonis, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Chris Paul, and Draymond Green. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Bradley Beal, and the Suns have not safely secured a playoff spot yet either. 

As mentioned before, all the teams in the Western Conference Play-In Tournament won at least 42 games already. Nevertheless, some of those names will not be playing in the playoffs. 

Every single team out of the Pelicans, Lakers, Kings, and Warriors is desperate to make the playoffs. The Lakers and Warriors have too many big names to miss the playoffs. The Pelicans and Kings want to finally establish themselves as forces in the West and get their young cores some more playoff experience. Plus, the Kings need the pick they owe the Hawks to convey this year and convince Malik Monk that the team has a successful future ahead of it if he returns in free agency. 

Thus, the Play-In Tournament will be a bloodbath, and every game should be must-watch TV for anyone who loves to see good, competitive basketball.