NBA Playoff Picture & Scenarios: Odds to Make Postseason, Projected Seeding and More

Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Giannis Antetokounmpo #34 of the Milwaukee Bucks.

The NBA Playoffs are two weeks away. Teams are battling to the finish for seeding, home court, preferred matchups, and to make it in, or out, of the play-in tournament.

This season the playoff picture looks a bit different with the play-in tournament added. The teams that finish in seventh and eighth in each conference will play for the No. 7 seed; the loser will face the winner of the No. 9 vs. No. 10 matchup for the eighth and final spot in each conference.

Here’s a look at where the eight teams are currently slated to land in the play-in tournament and their odds to make the playoffs.

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Western Conference Playoff Standings

Win %
Odds Yes / No
No. 7 Trail Blazers
No. 8 Warriors
+100 / -125
No. 9 Grizzlies
+155 / -200
No. 10 Spurs
+340 / -500

Playoff odds as of Tuesday and via DraftKings

Eastern Conference Playoff Standings

Win %
Odds Yes / No
No. 7 Celtics
No. 8 Hornets
+138 / -170
No. 9 Pacers
+160 / -200
No. 10 Wizards
+164 / -205

Playoff odds as of Tuesday and via FanDuel

NBA Playoff Picture

Using our projections, we’ve predicted how the playoff standings would shake out based on simulating the final games of the regular season.

Here’s a look at where the NBA Playoff picture stands as of today:

Based on our model, here are the results of where each team is expected to land and the most likely first-round playoff matchups in each conference:

Projected Eastern Conference Matchups

No. 1 Philadelphia 76ers
First Play-In Winner
No. 4 New York Knicks
No. 5 Atlanta Hawks
No. 3 Milwaukee Bucks
No. 6 Miami Heat
No. 2 Brooklyn Nets
Second Play-In Winner

Projected Western Conference Matchups

No. 1 Phoenix Suns
First Play-In Winner
No. 4 Denver Nuggets
No. 5 Los Angeles Lakers
No. 3 Los Angeles Clippers
No. 6 Dallas Mavericks
No. 2 Utah Jazz
Second Play-In Winner

East Notes

  • The Sixers are up one in the loss column and hold tiebreaker over the Nets with seven games remaining.
  • The Bucks have no realistic chance of catching the Sixers who are three games up in the loss column. Our sim gives them just a 2% chance of finishing second, but with the Bucks playing Brooklyn Tuesday, these numbers could shift considerably if Milwaukee wins and claims tiebreaker.
  • The Knicks have a two game lead for fourth place, which is considerable at this stage, hence their 63% chance of getting the 4-seed per our sim. However, two warning signs on the horizon: the Knicks have tiebreaker over the Hawks and Heat, but in a three-way tie involving either of those teams, the Southeast Division winner would win tiebreaker. The Knicks’ magic number for a playoff spot is five.
  • Our sim is skeptical on the Boston Celtics, but they hold tiebreaker over Charlotte and have a 1-0 series lead for tiebreaker with the Heat. They face the same problem New York does where if they wind up tied with Atlanta and Miami, the division winner gets the edge.
  • Indiana and Washington can no longer be considered realistic threats for anything higher than the No. 8 spot.

West Notes

  • The Suns are tied in the loss column with the Jazz and have tiebreaker, and yet our system still says they have just a 36% chance of winning the top seed out West. Bear in mind that teams will be watching the Lakers closely. If the Lakers wind up in the No. 4-vs.-No. 5 matchup, both Utah and Phoenix may angle for the No. 2-seed to keep them on the other side of the bracket.
  • The Clippers and Nuggets can’t realistically catch Phoenix or Utah and the teams below them are too far behind to jump into their current positions. The Nuggets and Clippers will either be the No. 3 or No. 4 seed.
  • Our projections like the Nuggets to finish behind the Clippers and the Lakers to get the edge on the Mavericks for the fifth seed. Notably, the Nuggets have tiebreaker over the Clippers and the Mavericks have tiebreaker over the Lakers. Nonetheless, Nuggets vs. Lakers, in some configuration of seeding, remains the most likely outcome.
  • Portland’s biggest game of the season is Friday vs. the Lakers (who are on a back-to-back after facing the Clippers Thursday). If the Blazers win, they win tiebreaker to get the edge on the Lakers with just five games left. If they lose, their odds of being seventh and in the play-in team become exceptionally high.
  • The Pelicans’ loss to the Warriors puts them three games back of the Spurs for 10th, and there’s just not realistically enough time to make up that difference unless the Pelicans literally win out. — Matt Moore


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