Hours after Luka Doncic criticized the idea of the NBA's play-in tournament, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told ESPN that the concept is "an enormous mistake," especially due to this season's compressed schedule.
"I get why the NBA is doing it," Cuban said in a series of messages to ESPN. "But if we are going to be creative because of COVID, we should go straight up 1-20 and let the bottom 4 play in. This is the year particularly to do it since the 10 games cut [from the normal 82-game schedule] were in conference.
"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."
The NBA board of governors, which includes Cuban, unanimously approved a proposal to implement a play-in tournament for this season, after the league used it for the first time before the playoffs in the bubble last summer.
"In hindsight, this approach was an enormous mistake," Cuban told ESPN.
Dallas (29-24) is in seventh place in the Western Conference standings, meaning the Mavs would have to participate in the play-in tournament if they can't move up. They are two games behind the Portland Trail Blazers, who own the tiebreaker between the teams due to beating Dallas in two of their three meetings.
"I don't understand the idea of a play-in," Doncic said Monday. "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."
The play-in concept features the teams that finish from seventh to 10th place in each conference. The structure, which the NBA announced in November, includes three games in each conference.
The seventh- and eighth-place teams play each other, with the winner earning the seventh seed. The ninth- and 10th-place teams also play each other, with the loser eliminated from playoff contention. The loser of the 7-8 game and winner of the 9-10 game then play, with the eighth playoff seed at stake.
"In a regular season of 82 games where we aren't playing 30-plus games in 6 weeks, then it might have been OK," Cuban told ESPN. "But the compression of so many games into so few days makes this an enormous mistake. "If we had gone 1 to 16, with the top 12 in, it still would have been rough, but there would have been more separation between play-in and the top 12. This is a season where we have to rest high-usage players. We have no choice. And that can and will have consequences."
NBA teams averaged 3.42 games per week during last season's schedule, according to data from the league office. That has increased to 3.6 games per week this season, including 3.75 games per week in the post-All-Star break schedule.
The Mavericks usually rest Kristaps Porzingis for one game during back-to-back games and occasionally rest Doncic for parts of back-to-backs.