With the regular NBA season about halfway done, we look at the top teams and predict who we think will make the playoffs this year.
With the NBA back to an 82-game regular season, we are fast coming up to the halfway stage. There have been a few surprises in the first three or four months of the season, but the top teams that were predicted to do well have generally lived up to their hype.
The NBA betting markets had Brooklyn as the favorites to be victorious in the finals, and even the enforced absence of one of its main stars has not slowed the Nets down. With ten teams making the cut from each conference once again, thanks to the play-in games, there are not actually that many that will miss out.
But who is looking good for the playoffs? We’ve taken a look at the standings and made some of our own predictions in the form of this halfway report.
Kyrie Irving made his first appearance of the season this week after the Nets changed its own rules about allowing unvaccinated players to be part of games on the road. A third offensive star is just what Brooklyn seems to need at the moment as it struggles to maintain early season form.
Elsewhere Chicago, Miami, and Milwaukee are all making plays to be the top team in the East, with Philly also coming up with some great games – thanks mainly to Joel Embiid. After that, it is a bit of a scrap to sneak into the top eight, and that will likely be the case over the next few months.
In the West, it is all about the Golden State – and, to a lesser extent, Phoenix and Utah. Memphis has also burst into the top of the standings and will hope to finish higher than last season’s eighth-placed seeding. Dallas and Denver also look like they could force the LA teams into the play-in games.
LeBron was critical about the introduction – and continuation – of a play-in tournament as part of the postseason, but he may have to win one again this year if he is to attempt to win another championship.
With so many teams able to make it to at least the play-in stage, it could be said that it is virtually the rest of the league that can remain hopeful of making the playoffs. Boston, for example, looks like one of the more inconsistent teams in the East and is still flirting around the play-in places.
Washington might be one to watch, though, as the Wizards could enjoy a strong second half of the season thanks to a number of players returning from injury and illness.
Apart from the two Los Angeles teams, there is also a lot of competition in the West to be part of that ten-team cut-off in the middle of April. The Timberwolves look most likely to stay in contention at the current time, but Portland and San Antonio could also make that play-in tournament. That could be the end of the road for both, to be honest, though.
Dead and Buried
Speaking of early exits, things already look very bleak for Detroit and Orlando in the East – and Houston in the West. Although the Pistons have improved recently, there is simply not enough talent on the roster to expect a playoff run. The same goes for Orlando, who looks like finishing dead last in the league this season.
Houston looks like the only team cut adrift in the West at the moment, but the next month will be crucial for both OKC and New Orleans. Not much is expected of either though – and they could quite easily find themselves closer to the Rockets than any team above them soon.