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NBA standings: Seeding scenarios, breakdown for final spots in 2021 playoffs

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Brace yourselves, basketball fans. The 2021 NBA playoffs are almost here.

There is an added level of intrigue this year with the league implementing a new version of the play-in tournament, which was first seen inside the Florida “bubble” amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of the traditional eight-team fields in each conference, a total of 20 teams will participate in the postseason.

MORE: Latest standings | Daily NBA schedule

With multiple contenders battling for playoff positioning, the final stretch of the regular season should provide plenty of entertainment. 

Here’s a snapshot of the current NBA playoff picture, including the full standings for each conference.

NBA standings 2021: Eastern Conference

Seed Team Record Games back
1. 76ers* 47-22
2. Nets* 46-24 1.5
3. Bucks* 44-25 3
4. Hawks* 39-31 8.5
5. Heat* 38-31 9
6. Knicks* 38-31 9
7. Celtics** 35-35 12.5
8. Hornets** 33-36 14
9. Pacers** 33-36 14
10. Wizards 32-38 15.5
Bulls 29-40 18
Raptors 27-42 20
Cavaliers 22-48 25.5
Magic 21-48 26
Pistons 20-50 27.5

*clinched playoff berth
**clinched play-in berth
Eliminated from playoff contention: Cavaliers, Magic, Pistons, Raptors

NBA standings 2021: Western Conference

Seed Team Record Games back
1. Jazz* 50-20
2. Suns* 48-21 1.5
3. Clippers* 46-23 3.5
4. Nuggets* 45-24 4.5
5. Trail Blazers 41-29 9
6. Mavericks 41-29 9
7. Lakers 40-30 10
8. Warriors** 37-33 13
9. Grizzlies** 36-33 13.5
10. Spurs 33-36 16.5
Kings 31-38 18.5
Pelicans 31-39 19
Timberwolves 22-47 27.5
Thunder 21-49 29
Rockets 16-54 34

*clinched playoff berth
**clinched play-in berth

Eliminated from playoff contention: Pelicans, Rockets, Thunder, Timberwolves

How does the NBA play-in tournament work?

  • The play-in tournament will be held after the conclusion of the 2020-21 regular season and before the start of the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs. The teams that finish Nos. 1-6 in the standings of each conference will be guaranteed playoff spots, and teams Nos. 7-10 will enter the play-in tournament.
  • The No. 7 team will face the No. 8 team, and the winner will earn the No. 7 seed in the playoffs. The loser will still have one more opportunity to reach the playoffs.
  • The No. 9 team will face the No. 10 team, and the winner will advance to play against the loser of the No. 7 vs. No. 8 game. The loser of the No. 9 vs. No. 10 game will be eliminated from playoff contention.
  • The loser from the No. 7 vs. No. 8 game and the winner from the No. 9 vs. No. 10 game will then play against each other. The winner of that game will be the No. 8 seed in the playoffs, and the loser will be eliminated from playoff contention.

NBA playoff picture: Seeding breakdowns

(Remaining strength of schedule via Tankathon and playoff probability via FiveThirtyEight)

Eastern Conference

1. 76ers

Remaining games: 3

Remaining strength of schedule: .386

Playoff probability: In

2. Nets

Remaining games: 2

Remaining strength of schedule: .367

Playoff probability: In

3. Bucks

Remaining games: 3

Remaining strength of schedule: .483

Playoff probability: In

4. Hawks

Remaining games: 2

Remaining strength of schedule: .266

Playoff probability: In

5. Heat

Remaining games: 3

Remaining strength of schedule: .534

Playoff probability: In

6. Knicks

Remaining games: 3

Remaining strength of schedule: .486

Playoff probability: In

7. Celtics

Remaining games: 2

Remaining strength of schedule: .435

Playoff probability: 91 percent

8. Hornets

Remaining games: 3

Remaining strength of schedule: .558

Playoff probability: 45 percent

9. Pacers

Remaining games: 3

Remaining strength of schedule: .534

Playoff probability: 36 percent

10. Wizards

Remaining games: 2

Remaining strength of schedule: .396

Playoff probability: 29 percent

Western Conference

1. Jazz

Remaining games: 2

Remaining strength of schedule: .374

Playoff probability: In

2. Suns

Remaining games: 3

Remaining strength of schedule: .514

Playoff probability: In

3. Clippers

Remaining games: 3

Remaining strength of schedule: .335

Playoff probability: In

4. Nuggets

Remaining games: 3

Remaining strength of schedule: .397

Playoff probability: In

5. Trail Blazers

Remaining games: 2

Remaining strength of schedule: .674

Playoff probability: 99 percent

6. Mavericks

Remaining games: 3

Remaining strength of schedule: .355

Playoff probability: 99 percent

7. Lakers

Remaining games: 2

Remaining strength of schedule: .460

Playoff probability: 96 percent

8. Warriors

Remaining games: 2

Remaining strength of schedule: .482

Playoff probability: 62 percent

9. Grizzlies

Remaining games: 3

Remaining strength of schedule: .476

Playoff probability: 35 percent

10. Spurs

Remaining games: 3

Remaining strength of schedule: .647

Playoff probability: 9 percent




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