Keys to Understanding How the NBA Works


Today, Clutch Corner will help you understand the intricacies of the NBA: how the league works, important dates, and how to recognize major players. Dive into the fabulous world of US Basketball with us!

The Organization of the Season

The 6 divisions divided into the 2 conferences (East and West), bringing together all the NBA teams. This map will be very useful for the future!


The NBA season begins with a period called the “regular season”. Each team must play 82 games between October and April (that’s about 1 game every 2 or 3 days). 

Over the course of a season, a team will play 41 games at home, and the same number away. And that’s where it gets tough.

In a regular season, a team must play :

  • 4 games against each team in its division (16 games)
  • Between 3 and 4 games against each team from the other divisions of the same conference (36 games in total)
  • And 2 games against the teams of the other conference, which are 15 (30 games).

Once the regular season is over (in April if you have been following), a ranking is established for each conference. 

The top 8 teams from the 2 conferences (16 teams) will play in the playoffs, while the others will watch them play via the NBA League Pass.

What are the Playoffs?

In fact, it is the second phase of the season: a series of matches, which sees the 16 best teams compete against each other. The best of them will win the NBA championship!

To do so, they must go through 3 knockout rounds against teams from their own conference and then challenge the champion from the opposite conference in the NBA final.

As you can see on the picture above, the distribution of the matches is as follows: the 1st plays against the 8th, the 2nd plays against the 7th, the 3rd against the 6th while the 4th plays against the 5th of the conference. To pass a playoff round, a team must win 4 matches against its opponent, so a playoff round can last up to 7 matches.

At the end of the playoffs, the winner of the East conference plays the winner of the West conference. And again, the first to win 4 games gets the victory, and thus the title of NBA champion. Last year, the Toronto Raptors won the final (4-2), against the Golden State Warriors, until then holders of the title!

The winning team then hung a banner from the ceiling of their stadium, immortalizing the victory.  In addition, each player is awarded a championship ring.

It’s good for the season’s operation? Great! We’re gonna move on now to the NBA highlights of the year!

NBA Highlights of the Season


The All-Star Game

It’s an exhibition match (no stakes for the ranking, just for the kiff’), in which the best players currently in the NBA compete against each other. These players are elected by the public through online voting. In the NBA, being an “All-Star” is the equivalent of an honorary title for a player. Indeed, it offers a certain legitimacy to be recognized as a great basketball player.

The Free Agency

This is a period of a few weeks during which players at the end of their contract can sign in teams making proposals to them. If you’re a soccer fan, think of it as a kind of NBA version mercato (and if you’re a purist I apologize for burning your eyes with that comparison).

The Draft 

The draft is an event that takes place at the end of June, once the season is over. For several hours, the team leaders choose one after the other the best hopes of world and university basketball, who will be added to the players already present on their teams. The draft allows the hierarchy within the NBA to be shaken up so that it is not always the same teams with the best players. For this, there is a simple but very ingenious rule, the worst clubs can choose first in the draft. The first players chosen usually represent the future of the team that selects them, so this event is a major turning point for many teams that are struggling in the present, it’s an opportunity for them to bet on a brighter future.

The Trade Deadline

In the NBA, it is impossible for a team to buy out a player’s contract (unlike football in Europe, for example, where hundreds of millions are spent on building the best teams). To acquire new players, teams must go through the free agency or the draft. However there is another way: trades. Each team has a ceiling that corresponds to the budget allocated to players’ salaries. To get a player under contract in another team, you have to offer them in exchange one or more other players whose contracts are equivalent to the desired player. This action is called a trade. 

Trades can be made by the teams from the beginning of the season (mid October) until February 7th, this date is called the trade deadline. The managers appreciate to drag the trades until the last moment in order to get a maximum of elements in exchange of their players. The evening of February 7 is therefore one of the most hype and stressful dates of an NBA season. Fans are suspended all night on their phones in order to be the first to know about the changes in their favorite team.

Individual Trophies 

At the end of the season, the NBA distributes individual trophies to the best players of the year. These awards allow players to stand out in the history of their sport. These awards include Best Player (MVP: Most Valuable Player), Best Defensive Player (DPOY: Defensive Player Of the Year), Best Rookie (ROY: Rookie Of the Year), Best Progression (MIP: Most Improve Player) and Best Coach (COY: Coach Of the Year).

Now you know how the NBA works at your fingertips, congratulations! Don’t thank us, you are an exceptional Rookie, maybe even the Rookie Of the Year!