NBA Playoff Standings 2021: Latest Records, Postseason Scenarios and Predictions

Zach Buckley@@ZachBuckleyNBANational NBA Featured ColumnistMay 15, 2021

NBA Playoff Standings 2021: Latest Records, Postseason Scenarios and Predictions

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    At this point on the NBA calendar, every night in the Association has significant ramifications.

    Friday was no exception.

    The Philadelphia 76ers snagged the East's top seed by thumping what's left of the Orlando Magic. The Washington Wizards punched their play-in tournament ticket—and, in the process, eliminated the Chicago Bulls—by handling the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Dallas Mavericks avoided the play-in and claimed a top-six seed instead with a narrow win over the Toronto Raptors.

    While some playoff seeds can still change hands, the 20-team playoff field features a full list of participants. So, it's probably a smart time to update the standings, lay out the latest playoff bracket and throw caution to the wind with a few bold predictions for the first round. 

Latest NBA Standings

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Eastern Conference

    1. z-Philadelphia 76ers: 48-23

    2. x-Brooklyn Nets: 46-24

    3. y-Milwaukee Bucks: 45-25

    4. x-Atlanta Hawks: 40-31

    5. x-Miami Heat: 39-31

    6. x-New York Knicks: 39-31

    7. p-Boston Celtics: 35-35

    8. p-Charlotte Hornets: 33-37

    9. p-Indiana Pacers: 33-37

    10. p-Washington Wizards: 33-38

    11. e-Chicago Bulls: 30-40

    12. e-Toronto Raptors: 27-44

    13. e-Cleveland Cavaliers: 22-49

    14. e-Orlando Magic: 21-50

    15. e-Detroit Pistons: 20-51


    Western Conference

    1. y-Utah Jazz: 51-20

    2. y-Phoenix Suns: 49-21

    3. x-Denver Nuggets 47-24

    4. x-Los Angeles Clippers 47-24

    5. y-Dallas Mavericks 42-29

    6. Portland Trail Blazers: 41-30

    7. Los Angeles Lakers: 40-30

    8. p-Golden State Warriors: 37-33

    9. p-Memphis Grizzlies: 37-33

    10. p-San Antonio Spurs: 33-37

    11. e-New Orleans Pelicans: 31-39

    12. e-Sacramento Kings: 31-39

    13. e-Minnesota Timberwolves: 22-48

    14. e-Oklahoma City Thunder: 21-49

    15. e-Houston Rockets: 16-54

    *z-clinched conference; x-clinched playoff berth; y-clinched division; p-clinched play-in berth; e-eliminated from playoff

Current Playoff Bracket

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Eastern Conference

    1. Philadelphia 76ers vs. play-in tournament runner-up

    2. Brooklyn Nets vs. play-in tournament winner

    3. Milwaukee Bucks vs. 6. New York Knicks

    4. Atlanta Hawks vs. 5. Miami Heat

    Play-in tournament field: 7. Boston Celtics, 8. Charlotte Hornets, 9. Indiana Pacers, 10. Washington Wizards


    Western Conference

    1. Utah Jazz vs. play-in tournament runner-up

    2. Phoenix Suns vs. play-in tournament winner

    3. Denver Nuggets vs. 6. Portland Trail Blazers

    4. Los Angeles Clippers vs. 5. Dallas Mavericks

    Play-in tournament field: 7. Los Angeles Lakers, 8. Golden State Warriors, 9. Memphis Grizzlies, 10. San Antonio Spurs

Bold 1st-Round Predictions

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    Jacob Kupferman/Associated Press

    Paul George Will Lead All Scorers

    Fueled by recent playoff woes and potentially propped up by a date with Portland's 29th-ranked defense, George has a chance to get flame-emoji hot and stay that way throughout the round.

    The Clippers, who kept it careful with Kawhi Leonard's foot injury recovery, would be more than happy to let someone else run the offense through the early portion of the postseason. George could be perfect for the job. His many career-highs this season include 5.2 assists per game and a 59.8 true shooting percentage. He also had a recent stretch of seven 30-point outings in eight games, averaging 32.9 points on 51.6/44.9/91.7 shooting for its duration.


    A Play-In Participant Will Advance

    While some top seeds have a chance to slowly and steadily pass the finish line, the teams in play-in field have the pedal buried into the floor. They have effectively faced playoff-level stakes these last few weeks, and that could have them more prepared than most for the postseason road ahead.

    That only goes so far when facing a massive talent gap, but that's not the reality for all play-in teams. The Lakers, who still seem likeliest to land in the tourney, are the defending champs. The Warriors have a two-time MVP in Stephen Curry. The red-hot Wizards post one of the most productive backcourts around with Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal. The Celtics have a two-way star in Jayson Tatum.

    There is enough firepower between them for at least one of these teams to pull off the opening round upset.


    Knicks Will Push Bucks To Seven

    On the surface, Milwaukee should probably steamroll New York. The Bucks have extra motivation after previous playoff stumbles, plus Jrue Holiday to help them over the hump. Oh yeah, there's also the fact Giannis Antetokounmpo might be the league's most unstoppable player, and Khris Middleton cracks the short list of best sidekicks.

    The Knicks shattered expectations to the point they've been playing with house money for a while. Even the play-in tournament felt like an unrealistic goal until they zipped right past it and into a top-six seed. Julius Randle has been incredible in his first All-Star season, but his supporting cast is heavy on question marks and light on experience.

    Why, then, does it seem like the Knicks could really put a scare into the Bucks? Well, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau will have his squad playing smart, high-energy defense, which could pose a big problem if Milwaukee is once again slow to adjust. The Bucks also won this season series 2-1, which doesn't mean a ton, but it does show the Knicks won't be run off the floor on reputation alone.

    New York probably can't summon enough to actually score a series victory here, but it could give Milwaukee everything it can handle.