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Basketball

NBA playoffs 2021 – Every little thing you could know concerning the 20 groups within the combine

The 2020-21 NBA playoffs — and play-in! — are lastly right here. And this factor is as broad open as ever.

However earlier than we lock within the full 16-team discipline, here is a take a look at the primary spherical of the play-in match, throughout which two groups from every convention will safe the Nos. 7 and eight seeds:

Japanese Convention (Tuesday, Could 18)

Western Convention (Wednesday, Could 19)

And, sure, that’s not a typo: The defending champion Lakers are the truth is combating for his or her postseason lives within the play-in match. If they will make it into the sphere, a wholesome LeBron James and Anthony Davis might make the Lakers one of the crucial harmful No. 7 or No. 8 seeds in NBA historical past.

The Lakers are amongst 20 groups nonetheless vying for an NBA championship. This is all the things you could find out about every of them, together with essentially the most regarding challenges, stats to look at and the most important matchups in every first-round collection and play-in showdown.

Word: Las Vegas odds offered by Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill. Statistics offered by ESPN Stats & Info analysis.

Leap to:
East 1-6 seeds | East play-in
West 1-6 seeds | West play-in

Japanese Convention

1. Philadelphia 76ers
2020-21 report: 49-23
Vegas title odds: +700

After an offseason filled with modifications, together with a brand new president of basketball operations (Daryl Morey), coach (Doc Rivers) and two new starters (Danny Inexperienced and Seth Curry), the Sixers sat atop the Japanese Convention for many of the season, and completed with the highest seed. A giant purpose for that was the play of Joel Embiid, who, when he was accessible, may need been the NBA’s most dominant participant in simply the perfect marketing campaign of his profession.

Greatest concern alongside their playoff path
Can this workforce rating sufficient? Setting apart the apparent potential for damage, nobody questions Philadelphia’s capability to play suffocating protection when it’s complete. However the 76ers’ second-ranked protection is superior to the workforce’s Thirteenth-ranked offense, which may are likely to get slowed down, particularly when its streaky 3-point shooters begin lacking. Then there’s the difficulty of scoring late in video games — that has been an issue in Philly for years — and it stays to be seen if this season’s workforce will remedy it.

Their playoff ceiling is …
NBA champion. The Sixers are one of many handful of groups that ought to enter the postseason feeling like they’ve a reliable likelihood to win. And with Brooklyn and Milwaukee being pressured to duke it out within the Japanese Convention semifinals, it will likely be unacceptable for Philadelphia to fail to at the least attain the Japanese Convention finals, a feat the 76ers have not accomplished in 20 years.

Fan attendance
The 76ers are permitted to permit 15% capability at Wells Fargo Area.

Tim Bontemps

One stat to look at
The 76ers rank second in defensive effectivity (107.0) behind the Lakers (106.8) this season, and the protection at every place has been stellar. In line with ESPN’s defensive actual plus-minus, the 76ers are the one workforce with a participant within the prime 10 at each place: Danny Inexperienced (third amongst SFs), Tobias Harris (fourth amongst PFs), Joel Embiid (sixth amongst Cs), Ben Simmons (fifth amongst PGs) and Seth Curry (eighth amongst SGs). — Jose De Leon


2. Brooklyn Nets
2020-21 report: 48-24
Vegas title odds: +220

The Nets are a workforce brimming with expertise, however they’ve merely been unable to remain wholesome this season. Since finishing a blockbuster commerce in January that landed James Harden — and in addition noticed the departures of longtime Nets gamers Jarrett Allen and Caris LeVert — the Nets’ Huge Three have performed in simply eight video games collectively: Kyrie Irving has missed a handful of video games for private causes and varied small accidents, Kevin Durant missed over a month with a hamstring pressure and had two coronavirus contact-tracing-related absences and Harden missed over a month with a hamstring pressure earlier than returning to the lineup with two video games remaining within the common season.

Greatest concern alongside their playoff path
The Nets’ greatest concern is getting by the postseason damage free. The fewest video games a championship workforce’s prime three scorers have performed collectively in a daily season is 10, when the 2001 Lakers performed simply 10 video games with Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal and Derek Fisher. Sure, the Nets have had a restricted variety of video games to construct chemistry and sure, they’d be difficult that benchmark set by the Lakers. Nonetheless, so long as the Nets can keep wholesome, there is not any higher trio contending for a championship proper now.

Their playoff ceiling is …
NBA champions. The Nets are one of the crucial offensively potent groups in NBA historical past and regardless of enjoying only a handful of standard season video games at full power, they nonetheless have the best offensive ranking within the league and rating the second-most factors per sport, making them a formidable opponent towards anybody.

Fan attendance
The Nets are permitted to permit 10% capability at Barclays Heart.

Malika Andrews

One stat to look at
Little question the Nets wish to have Harden accessible with the sport on the road. In video games he has performed clutch-time minutes with the Nets, the workforce is 18-2 with an efficient discipline objective proportion of 59% and an offensive effectivity of 128.9. These numbers are down considerably with out him: Brooklyn is Sept. 11 with an efficient discipline objective proportion of 48% and an offensive effectivity of 112.9 when The Beard sits. — Jose De Leon


3. Milwaukee Bucks
2020-21 report: 46-26
BPI odds vs. MIA: 54%
Vegas title odds: +750

After two dominant common seasons did not translate into postseason success, Milwaukee modified its strategy. It was made clear to educate Mike Budenholzer that he wanted to be extra versatile together with his schemes at each ends to higher put together for the playoffs, and he has been. The Bucks pushed all their chips in to commerce for the Pelicans’ Jrue Vacation, and he has been each little bit of the improve over Eric Bledsoe at level guard they hoped. In addition they later added P.J. Tucker on the commerce deadline to offer them much more versatility. And whereas the Bucks are worse from a report standpoint getting into the playoffs, they imagine they’re extra ready than ever behind reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Greatest concern alongside their playoff path
Will the entire modifications work? The previous two playoffs haven’t been form to Budenholzer, particularly, who struggled to maintain up with changes by Toronto’s Nick Nurse and Miami’s Erik Spoelstra throughout final season’s playoffs. Budenholzer has made a concerted effort to experiment extra within the common season this season, and it has paid off. However till these changes are put into the strain cooker that’s going through groups just like the Nets and 76ers within the playoffs, it is exhausting to know if they’re going to stick. Past that, can Antetokounmpo be the perfect participant on the ground in each collection? He wasn’t towards Toronto final season, after which wasn’t earlier than getting damage towards Miami. He’ll have to be for the Bucks to achieve their ceiling.

Matchup to look at in Spherical 1: Giannis vs. Miami’s protection
In the course of the second spherical final season, when Miami made fast work of Milwaukee within the bubble, the Warmth have been in a position to frustrate Antetokounmpo, sending him into one wall of defenders after one other earlier than the MVP in the end sprained his ankle and missed the tip of the collection. There is not going to be a greater check of the modifications that the Bucks have made this season in preparation for the playoffs than going again up towards that very same Warmth protection.

Their playoff ceiling is …
NBA champion. Having to beat each Brooklyn and Philadelphia will make for a difficult highway to the Finals, however these Bucks are greater than able to pulling it off than ever earlier than.

Fan attendance
The Bucks are permitted to permit 50% capability at Fiserv Discussion board.

Tim Bontemps

One stat to look at
The Bucks (120.1 PPG) are the primary workforce to common at the least 120 factors per sport for a season for the reason that 1984-85 Nuggets. Getting into this season, 22 groups averaged 120 factors per sport in a season; 4 of these went on to win the title (1972 Lakers, 1967 76ers, 1960 and 1962 Celtics). — Jose De Leon


4. New York Knicks
2020-21 report: 41-31
BPI odds vs. ATL: 41%
Vegas title odds: +8000

After years of a swirling cycle of teaching modifications, public drama and bottom-dwelling outcomes, the Knicks have cracked the playoffs for the primary time for the reason that Carmelo Anthony period. They employed Leon Rose because the workforce’s new president and made Tom Thibodeau their new head coach. The Knicks have stormed into the postseason behind the play of Julius Randle, who has ascended right into a bona fide star this season, incomes him his first All-Star look. The 26-year-old leads New York in scoring, assists and utilization. And he’s flanked by key rotational gamers, together with R.J. Barrett, Derrick Rose and sharpshooter Reggie Bullock.

Greatest concern alongside their playoff path
Their lack of postseason expertise. The Knicks’ starters have performed a mixed 16 complete playoff video games: Nerlens Noel has competed in 12 postseason contests, and Reggie Bullock has appeared in 4. Randle, who has led them by the common season, might be enjoying in his first postseason. The Knicks have been distinctive in shut video games to finish the common season — going 9-2 in clutch-time video games since April 9, in accordance with ESPN Stats & Info analysis. That’s good for the second-best such report within the NBA in that point. Nonetheless, the deeper that groups go within the playoffs, famous person expertise and expertise are likely to win out.

Matchups to look at in Spherical 1: Randle vs. the bigs, and Thibs’ plan for Trae
There are two matchups to keep watch over: Randle vs. Clint Capela and John Collins; and Thibodeau vs. Trae Younger. Randle has been a pressure towards the Hawks this season, scoring 40 factors, 44 factors and 28 factors in every of their three matchups. (The Knicks received all three.) Capela and Collins could possibly be tasked with containing him. On the opposite aspect, Thibodeau has appeared to attract up schemes to pressure the Hawks to attempt to beat them with out Younger’s sharpshooting. Younger shot 36.2% towards the Knicks within the common season, his second lowest towards any workforce that he performed at the least 3 times.

Their playoff ceiling is …
A second-round exit. The Knicks are 3-0 towards Atlanta this season heading into their opening-round matchup, however a second-round collection towards a seasoned 76ers workforce might show to be an insurmountable hurdle.

Fan attendance
The Knicks are permitted to permit 10% capability at Madison Sq. Backyard.

Malika Andrews

One stat to look at
The Knicks are again within the postseason by returning to their defensive methods underneath Thibodeau. New York has held opponents underneath 100 factors in 24 video games this season and leads the NBA in factors allowed per sport at 104.7. The final time the Knicks led the NBA in fewest factors allowed was the 2000-01 season, when the workforce received 48 video games — and when Thibodeau was an assistant coach on that marketing campaign’s employees. — Jason Joseph


5. Atlanta Hawks
2020-21 report: 41-31
BPI odds vs. NY: 59%
Vegas title odds: +5000

There have been two seasons for the Hawks, who have been out of the East playoff image at 14-20 when coach Lloyd Pierce was fired however have gone 27-11 underneath interim coach Nate McMillan to climb to fifth. A wholesome Bogdan Bogdanovic has been a key a part of the turnaround. He has averaged 18.0 factors per sport for the reason that teaching change, turning Atlanta’s second-unit lineups with out place to begin guard Trae Younger from the workforce’s greatest legal responsibility right into a shocking power because the Hawks return to the playoffs for the primary time since 2017.

Greatest concern alongside their playoff path
Playoff inexperience. Of Atlanta’s prime 5 scorers, solely middle Clint Capela has ever appeared within the playoffs. ESPN’s Zach Lowe has instructed the story of operating into Hawks guard Kevin Huerter in his lodge in Philadelphia throughout the 2019 playoffs when Pierce brought Huerter to watch his former team and get a sense of postseason basketball. Watching from the stands isn’t any substitute for the actual factor, and playoff expertise does have predictive energy for workforce success. Atlanta’s stars might wrestle to adapt to defenses scheming for them another way than throughout the common season.

play

1:25

Trae Younger talks concerning the Hawks’ comeback win over the Wizards plus his feeling getting Atlanta again within the playoffs for the primary time since 2017.

Matchup to look at in Spherical 1: Battle of the second items
With Bogdanovic enjoying nearly all of the minutes that Younger would not, Atlanta has been surprisingly good with out its star these days. The Hawks have outscored opponents by 3.9 factors per 100 possessions with Bogdanovic on and Younger off for the reason that All-Star break. They will be challenged to stick with it towards a New York bench that ranks second in reserve scoring on a per-minute foundation for the reason that break, powered by Derrick Rose’s 14.8 PPG coming off the bench.

Their playoff ceiling is …
A second-round exit. There is no purpose to assume the Hawks cannot win a first-round matchup towards the equally inexperienced Knicks, however knocking off one of many East’s prime three is a more durable activity.

Fan attendance
The Hawks are permitted to permit 45% capability at State Farm Area.

Kevin Pelton

One stat to look at
Younger is the primary participant in NBA historical past to common 25 factors and 9 assists per sport in a number of seasons earlier than his age-23 season. Oscar Robertson (1960-61) is the one different participant to have one such season earlier than an age-23 marketing campaign. John Collins and Clint Capela have benefitted essentially the most from Younger’s assists this season. Younger has assisted on 267 Collins and Capela discipline objectives this season; the one participant with a better help complete to a pair of teammates is Golden State’s Draymond Inexperienced (290 to Stephen Curry and Andrew Wiggins mixed). — Jose De Leon


6. Miami Warmth
2020-21 report: 40-32
BPI odds vs. MIL: 46%
Vegas title odds: +4000

The bubble hangover was actual. After a brief layoff following their run to the Finals, the Warmth struggled with a combination of accidents, inconsistencies and COVID-19 protocols all through varied factors within the season. Miami nonetheless discovered their method by the tip of the season and began to spherical into kind simply earlier than the playoffs. As was the case within the bubble final yr, it was Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo who set the tone. Miami is banking on the duo as soon as once more.

Greatest concern alongside their playoff path
Miami discovered magic throughout its bubble run final fall because of the push it bought from veteran guard Goran Dragic and younger sharpshooters Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson. This season, Herro missed a number of weeks with a foot damage earlier than getting wholesome for the playoffs and has struggled at instances to search out his shot — as evidenced by a chilly April wherein he shot simply 35.5% from the sphere over 14 video games.

play

1:25

Kendrick Perkins says the Warmth will show to be robust contenders within the East as they did final season.

Matchup to look at in Spherical 1: A brand new PG to take care of
Bucks guard Jrue Vacation presents Miami a significant problem the Warmth did not see throughout final season’s playoffs. It is going to be attention-grabbing to see how a lot Vacation squares off towards Warmth All-Star Jimmy Butler and the way a lot offense Vacation can present alongside Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton. Vacation, who averaged 19 factors, 7.3 assists and 4 rebounds in three regular-season video games towards the Warmth, was dropped at Milwaukee to be a difference-maker within the postseason. Now could be his likelihood.

Their playoff ceiling is …
A second-round exit. The Warmth rolled by the Japanese Convention bubble playoffs final season, however the Nets — Miami’s possible second-round foe — have elevated themselves into a special tier this season. To not point out the Bucks would love nothing greater than to knock out the Warmth workforce that upended Milwaukee’s title run final season.

Fan attendance
The Warmth are permitted to permit 15% capability at AmericanAirlines Area.

Nick Friedell

One stat to look at
The Warmth are a significantly better workforce with Jimmy Butler within the lineup. With him, they went 33-19 and held opponents to 106.1 factors per sport, which might rank second within the NBA this season. With out him, they’re 7-13 and quit 113.0 factors per sport — that may rank twentieth within the league. — Jose De Leon

East play-in match

7. Boston Celtics
2020-21 report: 36-36
BPI odds vs. WAS: 66%
Vegas title odds: +9000

After making it to the Japanese Convention finals in three of the previous 4 years, this season’s Celtics workforce fell far under that normal. The 2 positives: the play of All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. However Brown is now out for the season after present process season-ending wrist surgical procedure final week. However even earlier than Brown was out, the Celtics have accomplished little to offer anybody confidence they will return to that elite degree. The lack of Gordon Hayward, who went to Charlotte in free company, has been felt all season lengthy, whereas the again half of the roster — largely comprising younger gamers drafted prior to now couple of years — failed to provide commonly. Consequently, the Celtics floated across the center of the East playoff image all season and are deservingly taking part within the play-in match.

Greatest concern alongside their playoff path
At this level, it needs to be if the Celtics may even make it out of the play-in. They actually have accomplished nothing to encourage confidence of late, even in gentle of the entire disappointments they’ve handled this season. Boston now must modify to life with out Brown, considered one of their two prime gamers alongside Tatum. This workforce ought to make it out of the play-in, given Boston would host each video games, however nobody in Beantown is closely assured they’ll.

Matchup to look at within the play-in: Jayson Tatum vs. Bradley Beal
The longtime mates from St. Louis now discover themselves going up towards each other with a playoff spot on the road. That might be a enjoyable sport throughout the sport Tuesday evening — as will the possible battle of Russell Westbrook vs. Marcus Sensible. The final time these two groups performed was a one-point thriller in Boston on Feb. 28 that noticed Beal miss a troublesome jumper on the buzzer.

Their playoff ceiling is …
First-round fodder. Any hopes the Celtics have been going to make any try at a aggressive collection within the first spherical ended with Brown’s season-ending damage. Now, it is only a matter of avoiding the embarrassment of shedding within the play-in, or getting swept in the event that they advance to the primary spherical.

Fan attendance
The Celtics are permitted to permit 12% capability at TD Backyard.

Tim Bontemps

One stat to look at
Boston has seen its fair proportion of accidents this season and might be with out Jaylen Brown for the postseason run. The brunt of the scoring now falls on Jayson Tatum and Kemba Walker. The duo has posted an offensive ranking of (116.8), which is tied for the perfect two-man lineup mixture on the workforce amongst gamers who’ve logged at the least 500 minutes on the court docket collectively. — Jason Joseph


8. Washington Wizards
2020-21 report: 34-38
BPI odds vs. BOS: 34%
Vegas title odds: +30000

After the daring transfer so as to add Russell Westbrook within the offseason, the Wizards’ season did not begin as anticipated. Westbrook handled nagging accidents. Their 3-point shooters weren’t making something. They needed to take virtually two weeks off due to COVID-19 points throughout the roster. It reached a fairly dramatic “yikes” second halfway by the season, however behind Westbrook’s sudden run at triple-double historical past and Bradley Beal’s run on the scoring title, the Wizards discovered their identification simply in time.

Greatest concern alongside their playoff path
There is a normal feeling that no one needs to see the Westbrook-Beal tandem in a one-game winner takes all. However on the similar time, when a lot of your workforce hinges on wonderful gamers producing wonderful performances, a foul evening for the Wizards’ stars leaves no backup plan. Washington has been an inconsistent defensive workforce all season and rides waves of cold and hot capturing. If the Wizards are on, they’re powerful. But when not, it might go south rapidly.

Matchup to look at within the play-in: Decide your poison
Sensible in all probability cannot guard two gamers directly, so the Celtics might want to decide the place he’s finest utilized — towards Westbrook or Beal? It is an space the Wizards can attempt to exploit. Plus, keep watch over Westbrook taking Kemba Walker to the block when there’s a chance. Westbrook likes to exert his power and dimension in matchups; he has each over Walker.

Their playoff ceiling is …
An early problem for a contender. The Wizards play some wild video games and appear to have a knack for elevating their degree of play towards higher groups. Westbrook by no means goes quietly, and any collection with him concerned may have one thing dramatic occur.

Fan attendance
The Wizards are permitted to permit 10% capability at Capital One Area.

Royce Younger

One stat to look at
The Wizards’ offense runs on isolation, spearheaded by their famous person backcourt of Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal. Washington has had essentially the most isolations as a workforce this season — 1,731, in accordance with Second Spectrum — with Westbrook and Beal having mixed for 1,327 (78%) of them. The one groups to attain extra factors in isolation this season are the Nets, Bucks and Knicks. — Jason Joseph


9. Indiana Pacers
2020-21 report: 34-38
BPI odds vs. CHA: 54%
Vegas title odds: +30000

The Pacers entered 2020-21 as maybe the NBA’s most constant workforce, successful between 42 and 48 video games in every of the earlier 5 seasons, however accidents derailed them. Indiana misplaced T.J. Warren to a season-ending navicular stress fracture within the season’s opening week, performed two months with out newly acquired Caris LeVert when he was identified with renal cell carcinoma and extra lately misplaced Myles Turner to a partial tear of the plantar plate in his proper large toe. With out Turner, the Pacers slid within the play-in standings and now should win twice to achieve the playoffs.

Greatest concern alongside their playoff path
Can they cease anyone with out Turner, the NBA’s main shot-blocker? His return from a plantar plate damage stays unsure. Since April 7, Indiana has ranked twentieth in defensive ranking with Turner enjoying only one sport in that span. Beforehand, the Pacers have been simply exterior the NBA’s prime 10, rating eleventh. And opponent factors within the paint have gone from 51.1 per sport (twenty ninth) 59.5 since April 7, almost 5 greater than some other workforce has allowed.

Matchup to look at within the play-in: Recreation of zones?
The Pacers ranked third within the NBA in most possessions enjoying zone protection this season, in accordance with Second Spectrum monitoring, whereas the Hornets led the league on this class. Given the brief turnaround of the play-in, the number of defenses coach Nate Bjorkgren has used over the course of the season might current a game-planning problem for Charlotte and a attainable edge for Indiana.

Their playoff ceiling is …
First-round fodder. Given Turner’s damage and uncertainty about the way forward for their first-year head coach in Bjorkgren, merely escaping the play-in match could be a shock.

Fan attendance
The Pacers are permitted to permit 25% capability at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Kevin Pelton

One stat to look at
Indiana is led by All-Star large man Domantas Sabonis, who is ready to develop into the primary participant in Pacers historical past to common 20 factors, 10 rebounds and 5 assists per sport in a season. He’s considered one of 5 gamers to attain these totals this season. (Giannis Antetokounmpo, Julius Randle, Russell Westbrook and Nikola Jokic are the others.) The problems include Sabonis’ protection: When he’s on the court docket, the Pacers are outscored by 2.1 factors per 100 possessions; when he’s off the ground, their defensive ranking improves from 111.5 to 109.9, so he’s prime candidate for late-game offense-for-defense substitution patterns. — Jason Joseph


10. Charlotte Hornets
2020-21 report: 33-39
BPI odds vs. IND: 46%
Vegas title odds: +30000

Rookie guard LaMelo Ball has offered the vitality the Hornets wanted to regain nationwide relevance. Ball’s spectacular debut season, mixed with the addition of former All-Star Gordon Hayward and the robust play of Terry Rozier has given the Hornets a core price constructing round. P.J. Washington, Devonte’ Graham and Miles Bridges have offered coach James Borrego strong choices for a roster that has grown all through the season.

Greatest concern alongside their playoff path
Playoff inexperience. Apart from Hayward, who missed over a month heading into the play-in due to a foot damage, and Rozier — it is a younger group that does not know what the playoffs are like. The group hasn’t performed in large video games collectively and goes to must be taught on the fly what it takes to win. Ball would not seem like the kind of participant who shies away from a problem, so it will likely be attention-grabbing to see how he responds to playoff depth.

Matchup to look at within the play-in: LaMelo vs. his postseason debut
The important thing as to if or not Charlotte can get previous the Pacers within the first play-in sport facilities round how Terry Rozier and LaMelo Ball match up towards Malcolm Brogdon and Caris LeVert. Ball is the wild card getting his first style of playoff-level depth. Ball comes into the sport having gone simply 17-for-55 from the sphere over his previous 4 video games.

Their playoff ceiling is …
First-round fodder. If the Hornets can win their method out of the play-in match, the season must be thought-about a hit. This was at all times going to be a developmental yr — any playoff expertise will do them good.

Fan attendance
The Hornets are permitted to permit 60% capability at Spectrum Heart.

Nick Friedell

One stat to look at
The Hornets discover themselves within the play-in match largely due to their unselfishness on the offensive finish. Charlotte is tied for fifth within the NBA in assists per sport (26.8). With the emergence of rookie LaMelo Ball, the Hornets have jumped from being nineteenth in that class final season. The ball strikes with tempo for the Hornets regardless of who’s on the court docket, as they common 314.9 passes per sport as a workforce, in accordance with Second Spectrum. Solely the Warriors, 76ers and Pacers transfer the ball greater than the Hornets. — Jason Joseph

Western Convention

1. Utah Jazz
2020-21 report: 52-20
Vegas title odds: +700

The Jazz had the NBA’s finest report for the overwhelming majority of the season in addition to the league’s longest successful streak (11 video games) and two nine-game successful streaks that tied for the second-longest runs of the marketing campaign. The Jazz received 39 video games by double digits, by far essentially the most within the league. They led the league in web ranking (+9.0) by three factors per 100 possessions and have been the one workforce to rank among the many prime 5 in offensive (116.5) and defensive (107.5) rankings. All-Star middle Rudy Gobert led the league in general plus-minus (+728) by virtually 200 factors, and Utah had the highest 4 gamers in that statistic.

Greatest concern alongside their playoff path
Can the Jazz play their most well-liked offensive type throughout the postseason? Utah led the league in 3-pointers made (16.7 per sport) and tried (43.0) whereas taking the fewest midrange pictures (6.2). The Jazz generate high-quality pictures off of screening and crisp ball motion, however how effectively will that work towards a great switching protection within the playoffs? When the Jazz get out of rhythm, they have an inclination to rely an excessive amount of on All-Star Donovan Mitchell, who sat the ultimate three video games of the common season with an ankle concern, to create late within the shot clock. Utah went 1-6 when Mitchell tried greater than 25 discipline objectives this season.

play

5:02

Jordan Clarkson discusses the elements behind his kind for the Jazz, as a contender for the NBA Sixth Man of the Yr award.

Their playoff ceiling is …
NBA champion. There are doubters, due primarily to the truth that this period’s Jazz have but to make a deep postseason run, however Utah needs to be thought-about a reliable championship contender in a wide-open playoff discipline.

Fan attendance
The Jazz are permitted to permit 71% capability at Vivint Area.

Tim MacMahon

One stat to look at
The Jazz set the NBA report for essentially the most 3s made per sport at 16.7, however in addition they allowed a league-low 10.9 3s per sport. They’re simply the second workforce in NBA historical past to take advantage of 3s and enable the fewest in a season, becoming a member of the 1999-2000 Pacers. That Indiana workforce was coached by Larry Fowl, completed No. 1 within the East and went to the NBA Finals, shedding to the Lakers in six video games. — Vincent Johnson


2. Phoenix Suns
2020-21 report: 51-21
Vegas title odds: +1400

Coming off of an impressed 8-0 run within the bubble final season regardless of lacking the playoffs, the Suns have been able to make the bounce. Insert Chris Paul. The commerce for Paul, which despatched out 4 gamers and a 2022 first-rounder to Oklahoma Metropolis, helped to raise Suns from exterior the playoff image to the No. 2 seed within the West and the second-best report within the league. Paul has performed at an All-NBA degree. And the Suns have had relative good well being all season: Paul, Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges have mixed to overlook simply six video games.

Greatest concern alongside their playoff path
Will playoff inexperience develop into an element? Paul and Jae Crowder have been right here, however how will the Suns’ general lack of playoff reps have an effect on the remainder of the roster? Down the stretch, as Phoenix chased the No. 1 seed, the Suns misplaced to Atlanta, the Lakers and Golden State (and virtually to Portland). If they will proper the ship and get again to the workforce they have been from February to April — after they have been 35-10 — they’re going to be simply superb.

Their playoff ceiling is …
A run to the NBA Finals. The West is really the wild, wild West proper now: Phoenix might get unfortunate with its draw within the first spherical — that’s, a matchup with the defending champion Lakers — and have an early exit; or the Suns might energy by and switch the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2010 into its first Finals journey since 1993.

Fan attendance
The Suns are permitted to permit 17% capability at Phoenix Suns Area.

Andrew Lopez

One stat to look at
The Suns have been traditionally environment friendly on one typically forgotten space of the ground: the midrange. Led by Paul (first within the league in midrange makes) and Booker (fourth within the league), Phoenix shot 47.4% from that space throughout the common season, the best proportion by any workforce prior to now 20 seasons. — Vincent Johnson


3. Denver Nuggets
2020-21 report: 47-25
BPI odds vs. POR: 48%
Vegas title odds: +3500

After their surprising run to the Western Convention finals, the Nuggets opened the season 6-7. However Nikola Jokic opened the season on fireplace, launching an MVP marketing campaign with 4 triple-doubles in his first six video games. The Nuggets adopted their chief and have been trying like title contenders after a deadline deal for the Orlando Magic’s Aaron Gordon. And regardless that level guard Jamal Murray tore his ACL and Monte Morris and Will Barton have missed prolonged time, the Nuggets enter the playoffs as a top-3 seed.

Greatest concern alongside their playoff path
Does Jokic have sufficient assist? Bear in mind, Murray averaged 31.6 factors and scored 50 twice in a sensational first spherical towards Utah final season. Michael Porter Jr. has to not solely step up as a reliable No. 2 scoring risk however rebound at an elite degree and maintain his personal defensively in his second postseason. The Nuggets want Barton again to assist with scoring.

Matchup to look at in Spherical 1: Jokic vs. Portland, Half II
The final time these two confronted one another within the playoffs, it took seven video games — together with a historic 140-137 four-overtime Recreation 3 — for the Blazers to outlast the Nuggets within the second spherical in 2019. Jokic averaged 27.1 factors, 13.9 rebounds and seven.7 assists in that collection, which was simply his second ever. Now he enters this matchup extra skilled and because the MVP front-runner. Although the Nuggets haven’t got Jamal Murray, they do have Michael Porter Jr., who’s primed for his playoff breakout. The Nuggets might use the injured Will Barton again, however they’ve overcome accidents all season lengthy.

Their playoff ceiling is …
Convention finalist. The way in which Jokic has performed this season, he can carry the Nuggets again to the convention finals relying on the matchups. However with out Murray, who dazzled in final season’s playoff run, the Nuggets do not appear to have sufficient to get to the Finals.

Fan attendance
The Nuggets are permitted to permit 40% capability at Ball Area.

Ohm Youngmisuk

One stat to look at
Jokic has averaged 1.30 factors per possession out of the put up this season, the perfect by any participant in a season since Second Spectrum started participant monitoring in 2013-14 (minimal 300 post-ups). Double The Joker when you dare, however he’s at all times a step forward, growing that effectivity by almost 20% when he sees a double-team (1.54). That is the perfect by any participant in a season — by far — since 2013-14 (minimal 100 double-teams). — Vincent Johnson


4. LA Clippers
2020-21 report: 47-25
BPI odds vs. DAL: 64%
Vegas title odds: +500

The Clippers entered the season saying they have been motivated by their second-round bubble collapse. Paul George got here in decided to have a bounce-back season. Kawhi Leonard needed to be extra of a frontrunner. New coach Tyronn Lue was centered on studying from the Clippers’ errors of a season in the past. At their finest, they’ve shot the three at a historic tempo, they’ve handed exquisitely and Leonard and George have appeared like a dominant duo. However as soon as once more, accidents have disrupted their chemistry and led to inconsistency and simply as many questions as final postseason.

Greatest concern alongside their playoff path
But once more, the Clippers discover themselves questioning if they’ve constructed sufficient chemistry heading into the playoffs, as accidents have prevented them from enjoying at full power for a lot of the season. Maybe even worse, the Clippers do not at all times deliver the main target and look disinterested for stretches. (They misplaced to Dallas by 51 earlier this season.) Have they got sufficient management? Have they got a constant third choice to ease the burden on Leonard and George? Can their protection dwell as much as huge expectations? And may their high-powered offense not stall out within the warmth of fourth quarters. The Clippers have a lot multiple concern in the intervening time.

Matchup to look at in Spherical 1: Clippers’ protection vs. Luka Doncic
For the second straight postseason, the Clippers and Mavericks will sq. off, and there have been some tense moments between the 2 groups, particularly between Marcus Morris and Doncic. Regardless of shedding the season collection 2-1, the Clippers will enter this rematch assured after dealing with Dallas in six video games within the first spherical final yr. However the Clippers’ protection faces a extra skilled Doncic, who averaged 31.0 factors, 9.8 rebounds, 8.7 assists in that first spherical and delivered that tremendous buzzer-beating step-back 3 to win Recreation 4 in time beyond regulation. Lue and affiliate head coach/defensive coordinator Dan Craig have per week to determine their Doncic defensive sport plan.

Their playoff ceiling is …
NBA champion. Regardless of their points, the Clippers possess all of the title substances: the star duo, the veteran depth, the teaching and championship expertise. When they’re locked in, nobody shoots the three higher as a workforce.

Fan attendance
The Clippers are permitted to permit 11% capability at Staples Heart.

Ohm Youngmisuk

One stat to look at
Leonard and George are each wholesome going into the playoffs, and that mixture dominated of their 43 video games performed collectively throughout the common season. The All-Star duo ranked first in offensive ranking (122.5) and true capturing proportion (64%) and second in web ranking (+17.6) amongst all two-man lineups with at the least 1,000 minutes. — Vincent Johnson


5. Dallas Mavericks
2020-21 report: 42-30
BPI odds vs. LAC: 36%
Vegas title odds: +5000

The Mavericks, who have been hit exhausting by COVID-19 early within the season, have been 5 video games underneath .500 in early February. Dallas has the NBA’s fifth-best successful proportion (.673) since then, working its solution to the center of the West playoff image. Luka Doncic has produced MVP-caliber numbers, becoming a member of Damian Lillard as the one gamers to rank among the many league’s prime 10 in scoring (27.7 factors per sport) and assists (8.6). Homegrown position gamers Jalen Brunson and Dorian Finney-Smith have developed into important elements of the Mavs’ core. Dallas’ depth has helped the Mavs handle Kristaps Porzingis’ frequent unavailability resulting from accidents.

Greatest concern alongside their playoff path
Does Doncic have to hold an excessive amount of of the burden? Porzingis has had flashes of potential, however accidents and inconsistency have prevented him from proving himself able to being the secondary star on a reliable contender. With knee soreness sidelining him lately, it is exhausting for the Mavs to rely on him performing within the playoffs. Dallas wants Tim Hardaway Jr. — thought-about a wage dump from the Knicks within the Porzingis deal — to proceed his scorching late-season capturing.

Matchup to look at in Spherical 1: Kristaps Porzingis vs. Clippers facilities
The most important query concerning the Mavericks — brief and long run — is whether or not Porzingis might be the elite co-star essential for Dallas to be a reliable championship risk. He performed effectively in his abbreviated first style of the postseason final yr, averaging 23.7 factors on 52.5% capturing from the ground in three video games towards the Clippers earlier than his meniscus damage sidelined him for the remainder of the collection. LA can pressure Porzingis to play on the perimeter defensively if it performs Serge Ibaka or a small lineup with Marcus Morris at middle.

Their playoff ceiling is …
Second-round exit. Doncic makes the Mavs harmful in any matchup, however any collection win they pull off within the West could be thought-about an upset. Dallas might journey a red-hot Doncic to a first-round shock. A second? Do not rely on it.

Fan attendance
The Mavericks are permitted to permit 47% capability at American Airways Heart.

Tim MacMahon

One stat to look at
Doncic has shaped a robust partnership with Porzingis, particularly on choose performs. In line with Second Spectrum, the Mavericks have averaged 1.18 factors per direct choose when Doncic is the ball handler and Porzingis is the screener. That’s the most effective mixture within the league amongst duos to run 300 picks. — Matt Williams


6. Portland Path Blazers
2020-21 report: 42-30
BPI odds vs. DEN: 52%
Vegas title odds: +5000

It was a rocky season for the Blazers, rising and falling within the West and, as is custom, coping with myriad accidents. They went months with out Jusuf Nurkic and CJ McCollum, pinning the burden on Damian Lillard’s shoulders, and he carried it brilliantly. That’s, till he hit a wall and the Blazers went right into a stoop. However Portland recorrected late and is again in place within the West.

Greatest concern alongside their playoff path
The bench. The Blazers adjusted their roster to concentrate on wing protection, however they nonetheless are in the hunt for their finest seven or eight gamers. Their bench has been spotty, with Enes Kanter and Carmelo Anthony’s minutes expectedly coinciding with dips on the defensive finish. However in addition they want to enrich non-Lillard minutes with offense. It has been a problem for Portland all season to search out secure rotations, and as they head into playoff basketball, coach Terry Stotts might want to discover his finest lineups on the fly.

Matchup to look at in Spherical 1: Damian Lillard vs. Aaron Gordon
These groups know one another effectively, having performed an epic seven-game collection simply two seasons in the past. It’s going to look slightly completely different this time round with some new faces and one main damage, one which for Denver — Jamal Murray — might play a essential position. Gordon solidifies Denver’s defensive scheme, offering a extra versatile and athletic defender to increase pickup factors on Lillard. The Blazers’ postseason success is basically pushed by the best way Lillard can stretch and bend defenses together with his vary. The Nuggets have a brand new weapon to doubtlessly counter that.

Their playoff ceiling is …
A second-round exit. The Blazers won’t be betting favorites to make it out of the primary spherical, however Lillard & Co. by no means go simply. Playoff time is 48 minutes of Dame Time, and so long as Lillard is wholesome, the Blazers are harmful. Scoring an opening-round upset in one of the crucial wide-open playoffs in years is actually doable.

Fan attendance
The Path Blazers are permitted to permit 10% capability at Moda Heart.

Royce Younger

One stat to look at
The much-maligned Path Blazers protection completed the common season twenty ninth in defensive ranking, changing into simply the third workforce to make the playoffs after rating within the backside two over the previous 25 seasons. (The 2017-18 Cavaliers and 2002-03 Bucks are the others.) However Portland locked in to complete the season, ending twelfth since April 27. In that span, the Blazers held opponents to a league-low 1.06 factors per possession in transition, in accordance with Second Spectrum. — Vincent Johnson

West play-in match

7. Los Angeles Lakers
2020-21 report: 42-30
BPI odds vs. GS: 59%
Vegas title odds: +450

The Lakers had only a 71-day offseason to take pleasure in their 2020 NBA championship earlier than the league launched into its shortened 72-game season. Regardless of the brief respite, LeBron James was shot out of a cannon to start his 18th season, as L.A. stayed close to the highest of the Western Convention standings by the primary half of the schedule and James garnered MVP buzz. Then the season went off the rails. Anthony Davis suffered a calf pressure and Achilles tendinosis in his proper leg that sidelined him for 9 weeks. James had Solomon Hill dive on his proper leg, inflicting a excessive ankle sprain that stored him out for six weeks. Contract extension talks broke down between the workforce and Dennis Schroder, and L.A. tried to commerce him for Kyle Lowry. After the commerce fell by, Schroder entered the league’s well being and security protocols as a minimum opportune time with the Lakers combating for playoff seeding down the stretch.

Greatest concern alongside their playoff path
Apart from the apparent potential pitfall of James or Anthony aggravating their accidents, the Lakers’ 3-point capturing has been unreliable this season. Ranked simply twenty fifth in 3s made per sport and twenty first in workforce 3-point proportion, L.A. has been downright pedestrian when its pictures aren’t falling, going 12-11 when the workforce makes fewer than 10 3-pointers. When the workforce has a rhythm from the surface, it performs much better — 30-19 when connecting on 10 3-pointers or extra. In different phrases, guys like Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Wesley Matthews and Ben McLemore could possibly be the true difference-makers for the susceptible defending champs.

play

3:03

LeBron James explains why he believes Steph Curry ought to simply be the NBA’s MVP.

Matchup to look at in Spherical 1: LeBron James vs. Stephen Curry
This matchup options the 2 most impactful gamers to return by the league prior to now 15 years. The final time James and Curry met in a winner-take-all state of affairs — Recreation 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals — a whopping 30.8 million viewers tuned in. Curry is coming off a stellar season wherein he received the NBA scoring title (31.8 PPG) whereas James missed 22 of the Lakers’ closing 26 video games due to a excessive ankle sprain. Is L.A. ripe for an upset?

Their playoff ceiling is …
NBA champion, however this designation comes with a heavy caveat. You’ll be able to by no means rely out a LeBron James workforce — the previous 9 instances he was within the postseason, his workforce made it to the NBA Finals. Alternatively, he has by no means missed as many video games in a season as he has this marketing campaign, and at 36, he will not be capable of put his workforce on his again eternally.

Fan attendance
The Lakers are permitted to permit 11% capability at Staples Heart.

Dave McMenamin

One stat to look at
The Lakers could possibly be essentially the most harmful 7-seed since seeding started in 1984. Traditionally, 7- and 8-seeds haven’t fared effectively within the playoffs. Since 1984, solely the 1998-99 Knicks and 1986-87 SuperSonics have reached the convention finals, with solely New York reaching the Finals in a lockout-shortened season. If James and Davis are wholesome, the Lakers might make the same run; they’re 19-8 when each stars are within the lineup. — Matt Williams


8. Golden State Warriors
2020-21 report: 39-33
BPI odds vs. LAL: 41%
Vegas title odds: +10000

The one fixed for the ever-inconsistent Warriors has been the brilliance of Stephen Curry. The 2-time MVP carried the Warriors by quite a few stretches offensively whereas reminding the remainder of the league that he stays arguably essentially the most harmful offensive participant in basketball. Draymond Inexperienced proved that he can nonetheless play at a excessive degree, and Andrew Wiggins performed a few of the most constant protection of his profession throughout his first full season within the Bay Space. The main draw back of the Warriors’ season was the dearth of growth from No. 2 general choose James Wiseman, who confirmed flashes of promise however struggled with consistency earlier than a knee damage ended his season in early April.

Greatest concern alongside their playoff path
The Warriors’ beginning 5 of Kevon Looney, Kent Bazemore, Wiggins, Inexperienced and Curry has discovered a rhythm over the past month. The difficulty is the dearth of depth behind them. With the accidents to Kelly Oubre Jr. (wrist), Eric Paschall (hip flexor) Damion Lee (COVID-19 protocols) and Wiseman, the Warriors cannot depend on the kind of depth that each robust playoff workforce wants.

Matchup to look at within the play-in: Wiggins vs. LeBron
From the second Wiggins was acquired final season from Minnesota, the Warriors have been assured they might assist the younger swingman change the narrative surrounding his profession. A yr later, Wiggins has rewarded the group’s religion in him by enjoying one of the crucial constant seasons of his profession. Wiggins has at all times been in a position to rating, however the distinction in his sport is his reliability on the defensive finish. He comes into Wednesday’s sport towards LeBron and the Lakers having scored 73 factors in his previous three video games and might be counted on to maintain up the defensive depth throughout considered one of his finest stretches of the season.

Their playoff ceiling is …
An early problem for a contender. If Curry will get scorching, something actually is feasible for the Warriors even of their depleted state — however with the uncertainties surrounding the again finish of the roster, it will likely be powerful to string collectively 4 wins towards top-of-the-line groups within the West. As nice as Curry is, he cannot carry a workforce out of the primary spherical with out a little extra assist.

Fan attendance
The Warriors are permitted to permit 35% capability at Chase Heart.

Nick Friedell

One stat to look at
Curry has grabbed the headlines, however Inexperienced has performed a significant position for the Warriors. In line with Second Spectrum, Inexperienced leads the NBA in discipline objective proportion allowed on the rim this season (minimal 200 discipline objectives defended). Plus, he has assisted to Curry 194 instances, together with on 110 3-pointers, essentially the most of any passer-scorer mixture. — Matt Williams


9. Memphis Grizzlies
2020-21 report: 38-34
BPI odds vs. SA: 59%
Vegas title odds: +30000

The Grizzlies improved from final season regardless of franchise cornerstone Jaren Jackson Jr. sitting out till late April whereas recovering from meniscus surgical procedure. The highlight in Memphis at all times shines on second-year level guard Ja Morant, a rising star with a aptitude for the spectacular. Nevertheless, an argument might be made that middle Jonas Valanciunas was the Grizzlies’ MVP throughout the common season. He averaged 17.1 factors per sport whereas rating third within the league in rebounding (12.5) and double-doubles (49).

Greatest concern alongside their playoff path
Memphis, a franchise many anticipated could be within the early phases of a protracted rebuilding course of at this level, simply is not able to compete towards the league’s elite. The Grizzlies have been 15-23 towards .500 and above groups. They went 2-10 towards the West’s prime 4 seeds.

Matchup to look at within the play-in: Ja Morant vs. Dejounte Murray
Murray is on the brief listing of level guards who possess the bodily expertise and defensive credentials to doubtlessly decelerate the 2019-20 Rookie of the Yr. However that wasn’t the best way it performed out throughout the common season, when Morant averaged 25.3 factors and 9.3 assists in three conferences with the Spurs, all within the first six weeks of the season. Since then, the Spurs have switched to Jakob Poeltl, placing an elite rim protector behind Murray.

Their playoff ceiling is …
First-round fodder. Whereas something can occur within the truncated play-in format, the Grizzlies’ season possible ends there for the second consecutive yr.

Fan attendance
The Grizzlies are permitted to permit 20% capability at FedExForum.

Tim MacMahon

One stat to look at
The Grizzlies have dominated close to the basket this season, main the NBA in paint factors per sport and second-chance factors per sport. They’re the fourth workforce over the previous 25 seasons to guide the league in each throughout the identical season. The final workforce to do it was the 2012-13 Nuggets, who entered the playoffs because the 3-seed that season. — Matt Williams


10. San Antonio Spurs
2020-21 report: 33-39
BPI odds vs. MEM: 41%
Vegas title odds: +30000

The Spurs’ season featured hurdles at seemingly each flip. They’d a battle with COVID-19 that worn out per week and backloaded their second-half schedule. LaMarcus Aldridge was in the end launched. They’ve began 13 gamers and used 14 beginning lineups within the shortened season. They misplaced 10 of 12 since Derrick White went down with an ankle damage however nonetheless managed to make the play-in sport, as they appear to start a brand new streak of playoff appearances.

Greatest concern alongside their playoff path
The compacted schedule took its toll on the Spurs within the latter a part of the season. It additionally did not assist that White hasn’t been within the lineup since April 26 and is out for the season. However their greatest concern within the playoffs might be their 3-point capturing. San Antonio is twenty ninth in made 3s per sport and twenty third in 3-point proportion. They will have good capturing video games — they hit 17 treys on Could 10 towards Milwaukee — however as a rule, the pictures have not been falling.

Matchup to look at within the play-in: Battle of the benches
It’s going to be a showdown between two of the higher bench items within the league when Memphis and San Antonio sq. off. Memphis’ bench averages 39.5 factors per sport this season — fourth finest within the league — whereas the Spurs’ second unit averages 38.7 factors, which is tied for sixth finest. And whereas the Spurs’ starters have averaged a league-worst 4.7 3-pointers a sport, the bench averages 5.4 3s an evening, which is fourth finest within the league.

Their playoff ceiling is …
First-round fodder. If the Spurs can get out of the play-in match, they’re going to run into the West’s prime seed. It has been a tough go for San Antonio this season, and it is exhausting to see a state of affairs the place the Spurs make it out of the primary spherical.

Fan attendance
The Spurs are permitted to permit 17% capability at AT&T Heart.

Andrew Lopez

One stat to look at
After lacking the postseason for the primary time since 1996-97, the Spurs might want to win twice within the play-in match to return. They’re led by Gregg Popovich, who has made the playoffs 22 instances, tied with George Karl for essentially the most by a head coach in NBA historical past. Plus, the Spurs have by no means missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons. As for this season’s workforce, it is without doubt one of the finest at holding on to the basketball. The Spurs rank second in each turnovers per sport and assist-to-turnover ratio. — Matt Williams

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