Who Will Make the NBA Playoffs

Steph-Curry-NBA-Playoffs

The NBA All-Star break has already arrived. While there wasn’t initially expected to be an All-Star Game this year, the NBA decided to reverse course in a blatant money-grab. So, 24 of the game’s best players will flock to Atlanta to participate in the relatively pointless exhibition on Sunday afternoon.

For the rest of the league, the break is a much-needed hiatus. With the league mandating a shortened 72-game schedule, teams haven’t had many off days since the campaign got underway in December. The league is trying to get this season over with as quickly as possible in order to hopefully start the 2021-22 season on time in October.

So, we should see some fresh legs once the season resumes next Wednesday. While you won’t have any actual games on which to wager over the next several days, some NBA betting sites have taken the opportunity to update some of their futures and prop betting options.

At BetOnline.ag, you can wager on the chances of several teams to make the playoffs. Playoff races will surely come down to the wire in both conferences, so there is some value to be had here. Let’s break out our crystal balls and try to identify which teams will wind up punching their tickets to the dance, shall we?

Will the Atlanta Hawks Make the Playoffs?

In case you haven’t looked at the standings lately, I’m here to inform you that most of the Eastern Conference is an unmitigated dumpster fire. The 76ers, Nets, and Bucks have all played well, and they are currently occupying the three top spots. After that, it’s total chaos.

The Boston Celtics are currently fourth with a middling 19-17 record. The 17-19 Raptors are slotted into the eighth and final playoff spot, while the 16-20 Hawks are just a game out of playoff contention. In all, there are nine teams within four games of one another between the Nos. 4 and 12 spots in the conference standings heading into the break.

The 16-20 Hawks fired head coach Lloyd Pierce last week and replaced him with Nate McMillan. Pierce had reportedly lost the entire locker room, and McMillan has had a lot of success as a coach in the past. I think this is an upgrade for the Hawks, but we’ll see whether it actually pays off. Atlanta has won each of their two games since the coaching change.

Atlanta has dismissed Lloyd Pierce as coach, sources tell ESPN.

— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) March 1, 2021

The Hawks were big players this past offseason. Atlanta brought Danilo Gallinari, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Rajon Rondo, and Kris Dunn into the fold in a desperate attempt to make the playoffs. Trae Young has put up his usual solid numbers, while Clint Capela has been a real find starting next to John Collins up front. All of the new additions have struggled to stay healthy, though, so we haven’t really seen what the Hawks are capable of at 100 percent capacity just yet.

I’m a little more bearish than the oddsmakers seem to be on the Hawks’ playoff hopes, but there are some questionable teams ahead of Atlanta in the standings. With just a game separating the Hawks from the last playoff spot, there is reason for optimism. Atlanta also has a positive point-differential (plus-0.4), which can’t be said of most teams in the East. I’ll side with “yes” at -130, simply because Atlanta has too much talent to continue to underperform.

Atlanta Hawks –Yes (-130)

Boston Celtics

The Celtics took a step back this offseason with the departures of Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have blossomed into All-Stars, but losing Hayward for nothing was a big deal. Kemba Walker has struggled since returning from offseason knee surgery, but we have seen him bounce back in recent games.

Boston has been one of the biggest disappointments in the league. The Celts are only 19-17 after making a run to the Eastern Conference Finals last year. Tatum was forced to endure a rough battle with the virus, while Brown is dealing with a lingering knee issue of his own. Boston is still fourth in the East because the rest of the conference is awful, and that awfulness may be just enough to carry them across the finish line.

There is certainly upside in betting the “no” side of this one at +1200, but it’s hard to imagine the Celtics actually missing out on the playoffs. Barring a catastrophic second half, Boston will get in.

Boston Celtics –Yes (-2500)

Charlotte Hornets

If you read some of my preseason work, you may remember that I was bullish on the prospects of the Hornets this season. Acquiring Hayward this winter was a big deal, and I thought LaMelo Ball should’ve been the first pick in the draft.

Both players have come in and helped the Hornets improve considerably from where they were a season ago. Charlotte has also gotten an excellent season out of Terry Rozier, while youngsters like PJ Washington and Malik Monk have provided sparks of their own.

Charlotte is 17-18 on the year, which is good for the seventh seed. Ball looks like a future superstar in this league, and his presence alone may be enough to keep the Hornets in the fight. Despite having played off the bench for most of the season, he’s looking like a slam-dunk bet for Rookie of the Year. Ball is averaging 15.8 points, 6.3 assists, and 6.0 rebounds per game despite averaging just 28.9 minutes to this point.

The Hornets’ defense has been terrible heading into the break, but perhaps the time off will do them some good in that regard. The value here is on the “yes” side at +160. Charlotte has plenty of talent relative to the field in the Eastern Conference, so who’s to say this team can’t make a playoff push? Playing in the Southeastern Conference, which is probably the worst in the league, shouldn’t hurt.

I like the value on “yes” at +160 for the Hornets.

Charlotte Hornets –Yes (+160)

Chicago Bulls

The Bulls hired Billy Donovan this past offseason in an attempt to bring legitimate direction to the rudderless franchise. Chicago hasn’t been amazing by any means (16-18), but they’re among the gaggle of teams jockeying for a postseason spot. Consistently has been hard to come by for this team, but they do enter the break in decent form. The Bulls have won six of nine, including a solid four-point win in New Orleans to cap off the first half of the season.

This team really just goes as Zach LaVine goes. LaVine has earned an All-Star nod for the first time in his career, and with good reason. The high-flyer is averaging 28.7 points on efficient all-around shooting in addition to 5.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game. Lauri Markkanen has struggled to stay healthy again, which has forced the likes of Garrett Temple and Thaddeus Young into playing larger roles than the team likely expected heading into the term.

Are you serious @ZachLaVine?! ? pic.twitter.com/LdT6qzGq2E

— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) March 4, 2021

Only so many teams will actually make the playoffs this season, though. The Bulls also happen to have one of the most difficult schedules in the league in the second half of the year. Chicago’s future opponents have combined for a .511 winning percentage so far this season. That’s the sixth-toughest remaining schedule of any team. The Bulls may be headed in the right direction, but I think they’ll have to wait at least another year to end their playoff drought.

Chicago Bulls –No (-350)

Dallas Mavericks

Dallas came into the season with massive expectations. Luka Doncic was the preseason MVP favorite, and the Mavs were excited for the continued development of his partnership with Kristaps Porzingis. So far, though, it’s been a struggle. Dallas enters the break at just 18-16, which is good for the final playoff position out West.

Losing a quarter of the team for a couple of weeks due to the virus was quite the bump in the road, and Porzingis has dealt with injuries yet again. Doncic has bounced back after a ragged start to the year, but things are looking up heading into the break. The Mavs are 8-2 over their last 10 games and will come out of the break riding a three-game winning streak.

The bottom of the Western Conference playoff race will be quite compelling, but I don’t expect the Mavs to stay down here. It doesn’t hurt that the Mavericks have the second-easiest remaining schedule in the entire league. Dallas’ opponents have a collective winning percentage of just .483. Only Utah faces an easier schedule the rest of the way. The Mavericks are a total lock to get in.

Dallas Mavericks –Yes (-350)

Denver Nuggets

The Nuggets are yet another team that hasn’t lived up to expectations. Denver made it to the Western Conference Finals a year ago, but injuries have absolutely crushed this team. Denver has a solid 21-15 record, but that kind of record won’t get you as far in the West as it would in the East. The Nuggets are just sixth in the conference. If they were in the East, they’d be in fourth place by a pretty comfortable margin.

Nikola Jokic has dragged the team this far. As long as he can stay upright, the Nuggets will make it. Jokic is mounting a strong MVP case, averaging an astounding 27.1 points, 11 rebounds, and 8.6 assists per game. Those are LeBron-like numbers being posted by a lumbering 7-footer. If he played in a bigger market, he’d probably be generating more MVP buzz than he already is.

I don’t expect much drama here. The Nuggets will be in the postseason field.

Denver Nuggets –Yes (-1600)

Golden State Warriors

The Warriors were the worst team in the league a year ago, but the return of Steph Curry has propelled Golden State back into the playoff fray. Curry has been phenomenal, averaging 29.7 points, 6.3 assists, and 5.5 rebounds while shooting better than 41 percent from deep. The Dubs are 19-18, which is a solid record for a team that started 0-2 with a pair of ugly blowout losses this season.

Steve Kerr said earlier this week that someone other than Curry needs to step it up offensively if this team is going to make a playoff run. Unless the Warriors go shopping on the trade market, I’m not sure what he’s expecting. Andrew Wiggins just isn’t that guy. Neither is Kelly Oubre, Draymond Green, or Kent Bazemore. Outside of Curry, this roster is pretty underwhelming. Klay Thompson isn’t walking through that door. Not this season, at least.

2021 #NBAAllStar 3-Point Contest:

☔️ Steph Curry
☔️ Devin Booker
☔️ Zach LaVine
☔️ Jayson Tatum
☔️ Jaylen Brown
☔️ Donovan Mitchell pic.twitter.com/YFxzY1yIFf

— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 3, 2021

The Warriors are only a half-game behind Dallas in the standings. The problem is that there are only so many playoff spots to go around. I don’t think Dallas, Denver, or Portland falls out at this point. The only team currently in the top-eight that looks vulnerable is the 18-14 Spurs. San Antonio has exceeded expectations. Whether they can keep it up may ultimately determine the playoff fate of Golden State.

Thanks to Curry’s greatness, I’ll give the slight edge to the Dubs. The Warriors have the seventh-easiest schedule the rest of the way. The Spurs’ schedule is second-most difficult. You do the math. The value here at -115 is limited, but it’s worth a shot.

Golden State Warriors –Yes (-115)

Indiana Pacers

The Pacers were a team I expected to breeze their way into the playoffs. Indiana isn’t on the level of teams like the Bucks or 76ers, but they’re also better than teams that we typically see sweating out playoff spots. So far, though, Indiana has looked a lot more like the latter than the former.

Indy is only 16-19. If the season ended today, they’d be in the lottery. The Pacers do have a positive point-differential, though, so they’ve likely been a bit unlucky. Losing TJ Warren and Caris LeVert to long-term injuries hasn’t helped. LeVert is expected to debut for the Pacers after the break, though, which should give this team a sorely-needed presence on the wing.

Despite their disappointing record, NBA betting sites think the Pacers find their way into the playoffs. I get it, but it won’t be that easy. Teams like the Hawks and Hornets will be in the mix. Do we think the Raptors or Heat are going to fall out? There aren’t unlimited playoff spots to go around. I think the Pacers are better than they have shown thus far, but the hole they have dug for themselves won’t be easy to climb out of.

I’ll take the value on “no” here at +160.

Indiana Pacers –No (+160)

Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies (16-16) are only a game out of the playoffs at the end of the first half. Memphis had a series of postponements in the first part of the season, though, which means this team still has a ton of games left. Obviously, that can go two ways. They can use that to their advantage and leapfrog some of the teams above them, or the weight of the jam-packed could be too much to handle.

I don’t have much optimism about the Grizzlies’ chances. Ja Morant is great. Jonas Valanciunas is great. The rest? Meh!

Memphis is a team on the rise, but I’m dubious of their chances of keeping up with the field. They have the 13th-most-difficult remaining schedule, and I don’t think enough current playoff teams fall out and give Memphis a real shot at getting in. The Grizzlies just fall victim to the numbers game.

Memphis Grizzlies –No (-240)

Miami Heat

The Heat came into the season overrated, and they’re still overrated. Miami made a surprising trip to the Finals in the bubble, but they were playing over their heads. The Heat do have talent, but this isn’t anywhere close to the cream of the crop in the Eastern Conference.

Comical that Jimmy Butler wasn’t an All-Star this season

— Rohan Nadkarni (@RohanNadkarni) March 5, 2021

On the flip side, this isn’t a lottery team, either. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo are superstars. When healthy, they’ve been playing like superstars. The Heat got off to a mediocre start, but they seem to have righted the ship of late. Miami enters the break at just 18-18, but their stock is trending in the right direction. The Heat have won seven of their last eight games.

I don’t think they’ll be making a push for the top seed by any means, but this team is still a safe bet to make the playoffs.

Miami Heat –Yes (-1200)

New Orleans Pelicans

The Pelicans’ playoff situation looks an awful lot like it did a year ago at this time. Everyone wants to talk up the Pels’ young talent, but the actual results are so-so. Zion Williamson is more than living up to expectations in his first full season, but I’m still not convinced that this team has enough ammo to nudge their way past the rest of the field.

The consistency just isn’t there. New Orleans is only 15-21, and the West is a lot tougher than the East. They look like world-beaters on some nights. On other nights, they look like a lottery team. The reality may be somewhere in the middle, but it’s tough to overcome a 15-21 start. New Orleans has also slumped to just 29th in the league in defensive rating. Until they figure out how to keep their opponents off the scoreboard, this isn’t a playoff team.

Maybe next year, Pelicans fans.

New Orleans Pelicans –No (-280)

New York Knicks

Ah, the New York Knicks. The Knicks were pegged by many to be a lottery-bound team again this year, but Tom Thibodeau has turned things around. Through the first half of the season, Thibs has his new squad in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. The 19-18 record is nothing special, but this team only won 21 games last year. Progress is progress.

The Knicks are doing it with defense. New York has the fourth-best defensive rating in the NBA, which is an impressive accomplishment for a young team like this. Julius Randle has become an All-Star, while Immanuel Quickley looks like a keeper.

Fifth in the East is good, but their place is not safe. As mentioned, this section of the standings is awfully crowded. Just two games separate the Knicks from the 10th-place Pacers. Even the smallest of slumps could be enough to plunge New York back into the lottery.

As fun as it would be to see the Knicks make their way back into the postseason, this is the team whose current position looks the most tenuous. You’re not getting a ton of upside here on “no” at the -150 odds, but that’s the way to go. Sorry, Knicks.

New York Knicks –No (-150)

Orlando Magic

The Magic have been a playoff team in each of the last two years, but that mini-streak appears to be coming to an end. Orlando has been beset by injuries, which explains how this team is 10 games under .500 entering the All-Star break. The Magic are 13-23 and four games out of a playoff spot.

Is a four-game deficit insurmountable?

Of course not. The problem is that Steve Clifford’s bunch will have to leapfrog at least six other teams just to land in the No. 8 spot. Orlando also has the third-toughest remaining schedule in the league. That isn’t happening.

Orlando Magic –No (-2500)

Portland Trail Blazers

The Blazers have lost Jusuf Nurkic and CJ McCollum to long-term injuries, but that hasn’t stopped Damian Lillard from getting this team to where it needs to go. Portland enters the break at fifth in the West at 21-14 on the year. The Blazers have won three straight and six of their last 10 overall.

DAMIAN LILLARD. GAME WINNER. pic.twitter.com/YppdRM04hY

— Legion Hoops (@LegionHoops) March 4, 2021

No spot in the hyper-competitive West is safe, but this team has managed to play well despite the absence of two starters for quite some time. It may not be enough to vault Lillard into the MVP discussion, but it would be a surprise at this point if the Blazers fell out of the top-eight. Portland looks like a safe bet to get in.

Portland Trail Blazers –Yes (-285)

Sacramento Kings

If you want to bet on the Kings, I recommend taking a shot on Luke Walton’s odds of becoming the next coach to get axed. Walton is a +150 favorite to be the next coach fired, which looks like pretty good value. The Kings enter the break at a disappointing 14-22, with a dismal 2-8 record over their last eight games.

Showing Walton the door would get the Kings headed back in the right direction, but I doubt that the interim coach will be able to clean up the mess in time. Sacramento is just 13th in the conference. A fairly easy schedule (.489 opponent winning percentage) makes it possible, but I’d much rather bet on the Kings missing out on the postseason festivities.

Sacramento Kings –No (-1200)

San Antonio Spurs

Like the Knicks in the East, the Spurs look like the riskiest bet to make the playoffs among current Western Conference playoff teams. Gregg Popovich has done an admirable job of helping his young roster to a strong 18-14 start, but the Spurs have the second-toughest remaining schedule in the league. Only the Rockets have a more daunting calendar the rest of the way.

With the Warriors looming just south of the Spurs in the standings, I’m banking on Golden State ultimately nabbing this spot. Neither team is a title contender, but I expect San Antonio’s lack of experience to catch up with them at some point. There’s value in betting against a Spurs playoff appearance at -120.

San Antonio Spurs –No (-120)

Toronto Raptors

The Raptors are just two years removed from winning a championship, but it’s been a weird year for Toronto. First off, they’re playing their home games in Florida, which has probably thrown things off to a degree. The Raptors are clinging to the last playoff spot in the East at just 17-19 on the year.

Despite their record, Toronto has the fourth-best point-differential (plus-1.4) in the conference. Toronto could be a buyer at the trade deadline, but we’ll see. There is really no reason for this team’s record to be as bad as it is. They’ve been victimized by some bad luck. If a few breaks go their way in the second half, they should be able to push their way up the standings.

I think there’s only room for growth from here. The -450 odds on “yes” agree.

Toronto Raptors –Yes (-450)

Washington Wizards

The Wizards got off to an abysmal start, but they have bounced back nicely. That’s the nice thing about playing in the East. You can start the season 3-12 and still make a playoff run. Washington is only two games out of a playoff spot after improving to 14-22 heading into the break.

Bradley Beal finished with 46 points in the loss.

He’s now lost 11 straight games when scoring 40+ points, the longest streak in NBA history. pic.twitter.com/grjpZZVwdq

— ESPN (@espn) March 1, 2021

Bradley Beal has been outstanding, as usual, while Russell Westbrook has played well after a ragged start. The issue is that they don’t have much help. Scott Brooks is still jumbling his rotations on a nightly basis in a desperate search for a winning combination. I’m skeptical that he’ll be able to find it in time, however.

The Wiz are still mathematically alive, so a stab at “yes” at +220 makes some sense. The “no” side is the much safer option, however.

Washington Wizards –No (-280)

Taylor Smith

Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu …

View all posts by Taylor Smith