NBA Playoff Picture 2021: Latest East, West Standings and Bracket Scenarios

Jake RillFeatured Columnist IApril 29, 2021

NBA Playoff Picture 2021: Latest East, West Standings and Bracket Scenarios

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    It had been more than a decade since the Phoenix Suns last went to the NBA playoffs. But that drought is now over.

    On Wednesday night, Phoenix clinched its first playoff berth since 2010, becoming the fourth team in the NBA to secure a spot in the postseason this year. The Utah Jazz are the only other Western Conference team to have done so, while the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers have clinched in the Eastern Conference.

    Unlike past years, only the top six teams from each conference are guaranteed of playing in the first round of the playoffs. The teams that finish in the Nos. 7-10 spots in both the East and West will then participate in a play-in tournament to see who moves on.

    Here's a look at the current NBA standings, along with more on the postseason picture.

Current NBA Standings

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Eastern Conference

    1. Brooklyn Nets (42-20, clinched playoff berth)

    2. Philadelphia 76ers (41-21, clinched playoff berth)

    3. Milwaukee Bucks (38-23)

    4. New York Knicks (35-28)

    5. Atlanta Hawks (34-29)

    6. Boston Celtics (33-30)

    7. Miami Heat (33-30)

    8. Charlotte Hornets (30-32)

    9. Indiana Pacers (29-32)

    10. Washington Wizards (28-34)

    11. Chicago Bulls (26-36)

    12. Toronto Raptors (26-36)

    13. Cleveland Cavaliers (21-41)

    14. Orlando Magic (19-43)

    15. Detroit Pistons (19-43)


    Western Conference

    1. Utah Jazz (45-17, clinched playoff berth)

    2. Phoenix Suns (44-18, clinched playoff berth)

    3. Los Angeles Clippers (43-21)

    4. Denver Nuggets (41-21)

    5. Los Angeles Lakers (36-26)

    6. Dallas Mavericks (34-27)

    7. Portland Trail Blazers (34-28)

    8. Memphis Grizzlies (31-30)

    9. San Antonio Spurs (31-30)

    10. Golden State Warriors (31-31)

    11. New Orleans Pelicans (27-35)

    12. Sacramento Kings (25-37)

    13. Oklahoma City Thunder (21-41)

    14. Minnesota Timberwolves (19-44, eliminated from playoff contention)

    15. Houston Rockets (15-47, eliminated from playoff contention)

East Bracket Scenarios

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    Eric Gay/Associated Press

    Current Play-In Tournament

    Play-in Game 1: No. 8 Charlotte Hornets at No. 7 Miami Heat (winner would play No. 2 seed)

    Play-in Game 2: No. 10 Washington Wizards at No. 9 Indiana Pacers (loser eliminated)

    Play-in Game 3: Game 2 winner at Game 1 loser (winner would play No. 1 seed)

    While the Heat reached the NBA Finals last year, they're trying to avoid having to participate in the play-in tournament this year. They currently have the same record as the No. 6 Boston Celtics, so they still have time to move up the Eastern Conference standings.

    Miami has won five of its past seven games, but it's had an inconsistent season that has seen it lose six straight games at one point in late March. So it will need to keep the positive momentum going down the stretch to try to avoid the play-in tournament.

    The Hornets, Pacers and Wizards would all currently be in the play-in tournament despite having losing records. But they're not in the clear yet, as the Bulls and Raptors (both owning 26-36 records) are only two games back of the Wizards for the No. 10 spot.

    But Washington has been on a roll of late, winning nine of its past 10 games and 11 of its past 13. With Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal in the backcourt, the Wizards could be a dangerous team in the play-in tournament, as long as they can hold onto their spot to make it there.

    Chicago and Toronto are running out of time to move up the standings, and each team has a difficult remaining regular-season schedule. The Bulls have five combined games against the Nets, 76ers and Bucks, while the Raptors' next four games are against four top-five teams in the Western Conference standings.

    It's still possible that the Knicks, Hawks or Celtics could fall down the standings and into the play-in tournament, as New York (the current No. 4 seed) is only two games ahead of Miami. So things remain tight in the middle of the Eastern Conference.

West Bracket Scenarios

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    AJ MAST/Associated Press

    Current Play-In Tournament

    Play-in Game 1: No. 8 Memphis Grizzlies at No. 7 Portland Trail Blazers (winner would play No. 2 seed)

    Play-in Game 2: No. 10 Golden State Warriors at No. 9 San Antonio Spurs (loser eliminated)

    Play-in Game 3: Game 2 winner at Game 1 loser (winner would play No. 1 seed)

    The Trail Blazers didn't play well for most of April, as they endured a stretch in which they lost nine of 12 games prior to their current two-game winning streak. But they started their current six-game road trip with victories over the Pacers and Grizzlies, so perhaps that's a sign of better things to come.

    If it is, the Blazers could move up the standings and avoid the play-in tournament. They're only a half-game back of the Mavericks and two games back of the Lakers.

    The Grizzlies, Spurs and Warriors have fairly comfortable leads over the Western Conference teams that would currently miss out on the play-in tournament. New Orleans is four games back of Golden State for the No. 10 seed with just 10 games remaining on its schedule.

    The Warriors are looking to get back into the playoffs after their injury-plagued 2019-20 campaign. They also have a fairly light upcoming schedule, with their next six games coming against teams that would currently be out of the playoffs and play-in tournament. And Golden State is confident in its ability to succeed if it can get into the postseason.

    "As far as teams wanting to see us in the playoffs, I wouldn't want to," forward Draymond Green recently said on NBC Sports Bay Area. "I wouldn't want to play any team with Steph Curry on it, so that's just me though, maybe nobody else care, but I wouldn't want to."