NBA Playoff Standings 2020: Predicting Final Playoff Seedings

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistAugust 11, 2020

Portland Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts talks with Damian Lillard, left, and CJ McCollum during the fourth quarter of the team's NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo via AP)
Kevin C. Cox/Associated Press

All but one playoff berth has been claimed as the NBA motors through its final week of this strange season.

But the Western Conference's fight to the finish line should be epic. Four clubs remain in the hunt, and they're all separated by just a single game.

After laying out the latest standings, we'll predict the final playoff bracket, then rank the four teams battling for the eighth seed on their chances of securing the spot.


Latest NBA Standings

Eastern Conference

1. z-Milwaukee Bucks (55-16)

2. y-Toronto Raptors (51-19)

3. x-Boston Celtics (47-23)

4. y-Miami Heat (44-27)

5. x-Indiana Pacers (43-28)

6. x-Philadelphia 76ers (42-28)

7. x-Brooklyn Nets (34-36)

8. x-Orlando Magic (32-29)

9. e-Washington Wizards (24-26)


Western Conference

1. z-Los Angeles Lakers (52-18)

2. x-Los Angeles Clippers (47-23)

3. y-Denver Nuggets (46-25)

4. y-Houston Rockets (44-25)

5. x-Oklahoma City Thunder (43-27)

6. x-Utah Jazz (43-28)

7. x-Dallas Mavericks (43-30)

8. Memphis Grizzlies (33-38)

9. Portland Trail Blazers (33-39)

10. Phoenix Suns (32-39)

11. San Antonio Spurs (31-38)

12. e-New Orleans Pelicans (30-40)

13. e-Sacramento Kings (29-41)


z-clinched conference

y-clinched division

x-clinched playoff berth

e-eliminated from playoffs


Predicted Playoff Bracket

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Milwaukee Bucks vs. No. 8 Orlando Magic

No. 2 Toronto Raptors vs. No. 7 Brooklyn Nets

No. 3 Boston Celtics vs. No. 6 Philadelphia 76ers

No. 4 Miami Heat vs. No. 5 Indiana Pacers


Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers vs. No. 8 Portland Trail Blazers

No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers vs. No. 7 Dallas Mavericks

No. 3 Houston Rockets vs. No. 6 Utah Jazz

No. 4 Denver Nuggets vs. No. 5 Oklahoma City Thunder


Ranking The Four Teams Fighting for the West's No. 8 Seed

1. Portland Trail Blazers

As our predicted bracket already revealed, we like the Blazers' chances of pulling this off.

Portland has the bubble's best offense, and while its defense remains generous, it at least packs a heavier punch with Jusuf Nurkic and Zach Collins back in the fold. Damian Lillard is playing at an MVP level (33.0 points, 9.5 assists through six games), and CJ McCollum is on a short list of the league's most skilled co-stars.

The Blazers are clearly the most talented team in this race, and they were conference finalists just a year ago. Even if they need to win two games during the play-in tournament, they have the personnel to pull that off.


2. Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies' surprising, ahead-of-schedule success that season has them still in control of their destiny, but they're holding on by a thread.

Memphis has just one win to show for six bubble battles, and the loss of standout sophomore Jaren Jackson Jr. to a season-ending meniscus tear was a brutal blow. Getting nothing out of deadline acquisition Justise Winslow (out for the season with a hip injury) isn't helping, either.

On paper, the Grizzlies might have the weakest active roster of the four teams, but their early success when at full-strength still gives them the second-best chance to get this done. Their final two opponents—the Bucks and Celtics—have already locked in their playoff seeds, so they might sit their stars or at least limit their minutes. The path to the play-in tournament is open for the Grizzlies, and they might enter it as the eighth seed.


3. Phoenix Suns

If you only started paying attention to the NBA once the bubble opened, you'd have a hard time being convinced that this isn't actually the best team in basketball.

Phoenix is the only undefeated team in Orlando (6-0), and it owns the bubble's best net rating (an elite plus-11.1 mark). Three of their six victories have been decided by double digits. The Suns have three players averaging at least 14 points—Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton, Cameron Johnson and Dario Saric—and they're all shooting better than 50 percent from the field (and all but Booker are clearing 40 percent from deep).

Phoenix is leaving nothing to chance, but it's still fighting an uphill battle due to what happened before the hoops world went into hiatus. The Suns entered the bubble six games out of the eighth seed. To trim that deficit to just one is remarkable. Phoenix has given itself a puncher's chance, but the odds still aren't in this team's favor.


4. San Antonio Spurs

Betting against Gregg Popovich and the Spurs rarely seems like a wise strategy. Even after Pop stressed the importance of player development in Orlando, the team has fought tooth and nail to keep its 22-year playoff streak going.

The Spurs are 4-2 inside the bubble, and their plus-2.6 net rating ranks seventh among the 22 participants. DeMar DeRozan has shown why he's a four-time All-Star (21.5 points and 6.0 assists), and Derrick White has had moments of brilliance (20.8 points, 4.8 assists and 4.7 rebounds).

But San Antonio hasn't deviated from its player development initiative. Sixth man Patty Mills has only suited up three times to free more minutes for the younger players. Tack on the fact two tricky matchups remain on the schedule—the Rockets and Jazz—and it seems we'll finally have our first Spurs-free postseason in decades.


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