OKC Thunder: Pros and cons of league seeding and group bracket formats

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the OKC Thunder (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander #2 of the OKC Thunder (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
Paul George #13 of the LA Clippers looks on in a game against the OKC Thunder. (Photo by Katharine Lotze/Getty Images) /

Pros and cons of group bracket for OKC Thunder:

One format option gaining traction and hype around NBA circles is the potential for a group bracket round-robin tournament. It’s been referred to as the “soccer-style group play” but it’s also very similar to what FIBA does in the World Championships.

Adam Silver has long wanted to put something of this nature into play. The fear is the Commissioner will ignore what the league brain trust and owners want simply because he wants to take this opportunity to test out this format.

There are clear disadvantages for Eastern clubs who could end up in a group with all Western teams. Many teams including the Thunder would prefer to face the team they were aligned with prior to the suspension.

Notably, the four brackets of five teams would play each team twice with the top two teams moving forward. Since the Thunder fall in tier three that already puts them at a disadvantage.

The GMs voted on it with only 25 percent in favor and those votes likely came from non-seeded teams. As per Kevin O’Connor of the Ringer the elite clubs were not in favor of this format preferring a play-in tournament.

As per Steve Fenn’s tweet above the tiers are listed based on where they currently rank league-wide:

Tier One: Bucks, Lakers, Raptors, Clippers

Tier Two: Celtics, Nuggets, Jazz, Heat

Tier Three: OKC Thunder, Rockets, Pacers, 76ers

Tier Four: Mavericks, Grizzlies, Nets, Magic

Tier Five: Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs

The uncertainty about the group brackets is who lands where and how the league would determine it.  If it’s generated arbitrarily there is the chance for a death group to emerge while another bracket could feature one elite club and four of the easier opponents.

If the tiers were decided simply based on current league seeding it also wouldn’t be ideal for the Clippers who would end up with the hardest opponent from each tier.


It’s hard to find anything positive about this option for the OKC Thunder who have a much better chance of advancing to the second round if they play the Jazz or Rockets.

Even with this format, there is further clarification required as the brackets could be based on league seeding or a draft could occur. Neither option would be ideal for the Thunder since they reside in the third tier with the Rockets, 76ers, and Pacers.

While some teams might say they fear any of that trio it’s likely the Thunder are the club the tier one teams (Bucks, Lakers, Raptors, and Clippers) would least likely want to play.

So, the only pro would be if the brackets were generated arbitrarily and OKC landed in the same bracket as the Jazz and also avoided the Mavericks.


The cons are many in this format since only the top two teams from each bracket advance. The concerns of landing in a group of death should be avoided via a draft. Yet, even in a draft, the Thunder would likely face much stiffer competition unless as noted above the Jazz landed in their bracket.

Plus this format would require every team to play the equivalent of a first-round that ran eight games since everyone plays each other twice. Consider if the Thunder had played the Jazz instead with the potential to advance via a short series.

Also, if the NBA uses this format, it would likely mean no other games would be played so even if they Thunder advanced the next round would be determined by league seeding. That means no additional games would be played meaning OKC wouldn’t be able to move up the ladder prior to the round-robin. Again, as of the suspension, the Thunder were on the precipice of moving past the Jazz into fourth, already owned the tiebreak versus the Rockets, and were only 2.5 games back of third.

The other potential con for the Thunder is if there are no games played prior it removes their option of purposely falling to 11th in order to retain their own draft pick.

This group round-robin is the worst possible option for the Thunder. Feedback suggests this is the least desirable format of the stakeholders (GMs, owners, and players from the 16 seeded teams). But, unfortunately, the decision lies with Adam Silver and the worry is he’ll do what he wants with every indication being this is precisely the type of creative concept he’s been dying to test.