1) Give fans more reasons to care
Players that win the In-Season Tournament stand to rake in a cool $500,000 this year. The losing team in the finals gets a nice payout too, as do the other semifinals and quarterfinalists and the coaches on those teams.
What do the fans get out of that victory? Zilch.
This is not to say fans should receive some sort of financial compensation if their team wins the In-Season Tournament - that would be both ridiculous and incredibly impractical. Leave that to the bettors.
But fans need a reason to care more than they currently do. Bragging rights are nice, but bragging rights and pride for the tournament hit differently than the bragging rights and pride that accompany the receiving of the Larry O'Brien Trophy at the end of the season.
It just feels like there are no stakes for fans. Even at the end of a team's dreary NBA season, games still matter to some degree because of NBA Draft lottery odds. The group play tournament games matter in much the same way, counting towards the standings, but not doing much to elevate the fan experience.
There needs to be a way to make these games matter beyond their effect on the regular season standings. Maybe the winning team receives an extra second-round draft pick or gets an automatic spot in the postseason proper (not the Play-In Tournament, which could be an example for the NBA to closer adhere to in the future).
These are just suggestions. There are any number of ways to amp up the stakes of this tournament. Getting it to matter to players is essential, but fans need to care too. This year's In-Season Tournament gives the NBA something to build off of, and the best of it may be yet to come. It's not too early to start tinkering with the tourney, though.