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With the exception of the 2012 lockout season and the covid lockdown/abbreviated schedules in 2020 and 2021, at least one NBA team has recorded a 60-win season every year since 2001. That record is in jeopardy this year as the top two teams in the Eastern Conference and the top team in the Western Conference have only a slight chance at best. The first place  Celtics (East) will need to win 18 of their remaining 21 games, the second place Bucks (East) 19 of 22, or the first place Nuggets (West) 19 of 21 to hit the 60 mark. No one else has a shot. In addition,  in the Western Conference the third place team has only six more wins than the thirteenth place team. In other words, in a sport where dynasties have been historically commonplace,  the playing field appears to be leveling.

Why is the post- covid league emerging as more competitive? Two changes appear instrumental:  The creation of play-in games for teams ranked 7-10 in the standings, and changes to the lottery draft system. 
Each regular season NBA game generates about $1.2 million just in gate receipts alone and about $2 million for each playoff game. So the creation of play-in games for teams in seveth thru tenth place not only generates opportunities for those that might otherwise give up on their season, it also generates substantial revenue. Seven plays eight and the winner is in the playoffs. Nine plays ten and the winner plays the loser of the seven versus eight game. The winner of that match up also gets a playoff spot. Keep in mind they already play 82 regular season games. And, for the teams who make the playoffs, there is the potential to play in as many as 28 more post-season games. Whew! At a minimum of $2 million per game,  that is a lot of money!!!
The draft lottery has been tweaked several times over the years. The latest changes in 2021 were made to avoid more teams following the blueprint of the Sixers when they deliberately tanked their team by trading away all their better players for warm bodies from the developmenttal league. Their team became known as  “The”Process” and for a few years ( 2013-2016) they were dreadful. They “played” the draft system in order to acquire several high level draft choices. And while it worked long-term, they lost substantial gate receipts, media, and apparel revenue angering both the NBA and their fans. 
The new draft system equally weights the chances of the last three teams in the conference getting a top three lottery pick at about 14%. However, the chances for the fourth worst team only drop to 12.5%, fifth worst to 10.5%, and sixth worst to 9%. Not a great difference. But, more importantly, it once again encourages teams to try and win as many games as possible throughout the entire season. 
For the casual observer of the NBA, the details of these changes meant to enhance the competitiveness of the entire league may be a lot to digest. However, for die-hard fans such as my son, Jordan, these changes are recognized and appreciated as the building blocks of the future of their beloved sport. 
I will be watching the statistics closely for the remainder of the season to see how close the top three teams come to 60 wins. Jordan would tell you that his Orlando Magic, who have handed the Celtics three losses in four meetings this year, will continue to play the spoiler role as they potentially claw their way to a play-in spot. Sorry Bucks, I believe you have to face them twice. Believe in Magic!

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