One Month Left… Who’s Making the Postseason?



Dillon Monroe, Staff Writer

It’s time for basketball fans to get excited, as the NBA postseason is right around the corner. Each team has around 20 games left on their schedule, which means that the time for fringe playoff teams to make any last-minute push is now. Each conference has its playoff locks and its bottom feeder teams, but they also have teams that are in the awkward position in which they aren’t contenders but they aren’t bad enough to tank. These teams can either sneak into the playoffs and try to pull off the rare upset, or these teams can miss the playoffs and secure a lottery pick in the draft. This season the playoffs are set to start on May 22, but before the playoffs can start, the new play-in tournament must take place.

Portland emerges victorious over Memphis in the league’s first ever postseason play-in game on August 15, 2020 (via Mike Ehrmann/Associated Press)

This is the inaugural season for the NBA’s new postseason play-in tournament. A play-in game did take place last season between the Portland Trail Blazers and Memphis Grizzlies, but this is the first season in which there is a tournament in each conference. Four teams qualify for the tournament, and those teams are decided through their end-of-season placement in the conference standings. The seventh seeded team will play a game against the eighth seeded team, with the winner being rewarded the seventh seed. The loser of that game however gets to face off against the winner of the game played between the ninth and tenth seeded teams, and the winner of that game is awarded the eighth seed. The play-in tournament is essentially a second chance given to the ninth and tenth seeded teams to sneak into the playoffs, and is also essentially a second chance for the eighth seeded team to snag the seventh seed. As of Monday, April 12, these are the teams qualifying for the tournament:

Western Conference

  • Dallas Mavericks (7th)
  • Memphis Grizzlies (8th)
  • San Antonio Spurs (9th)
  • Golden State Warriors (10th)

Eastern Conference

  • Boston Celtics (7th)
  • New York Knicks (8th)
  • Indiana Pacers (9th)
  • Chicago Bulls (10th)

For years the Western Conference has been known as the more competitive conference. That trend continued this year as the eighth seeded Memphis Grizzlies hold a mere five game lead over the Sacramento Kings who sit at the twelfth seed, so the playoff race out west is practically wide open. Two teams that have potential to secure a playoff berth or a spot in the play-in tournament are the New Orleans Pelicans and the Golden State Warriors.

New Orleans undoubtedly has one of the most promising young cores in the NBA as they’ve managed to pair young stars Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram with young players that have loads of potential such as Lonzo Ball, Jaxson Hayes, Josh Hart, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. This collection of promising young guys gives New Orleans a squad that could make some noise in the future. The Pelicans haven’t been anything special this season as they’re currently the eleventh seed with a 24-29 record, but seeing that Golden State’s rookie center James Wiseman is likely out for the season and that the San Antonio Spurs have one of the most difficult schedules going forward, now is New Orleans’ best chance at sneaking into the playoffs.

Warriors come up short against Miami Heat despite Stephen Curry’s 16 points in the 4th Quarter (via AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

As previously mentioned, James Wiseman recently went down with a torn meniscus that will likely keep him sidelined for the remainder of the season. Wiseman, the second pick of the draft, was a big part of the Warriors’ rotation and his injury will undoubtedly have a negative effect on the roster’s success going forward. The Warriors should not be counted out however, as they have an easy slate of games remaining and the Spurs are only one game ahead of them in the standings. Golden State’s star, Stephen Curry, has been electric for them this season and has been vital to their success. With Curry the Warriors are 24-21, but they’ve had noticeable struggles offensively without him on the court. The Warriors dominated the NBA from 2015 through 2019 but the roster has gone through many changes since then. If they hope to make any noise in the Western Conference, team veterans Stephen Curry and Draymond Green will likely have to play the best basketball of their storied careers. 

Though it may not seem like much, one month of basketball is more than enough time for each conference to see some major changes in the standings. Some teams may implode, some teams may rise, but all we can do as fans is sit back and watch as the beauty of the sport unravels.