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NBA standings: Seeding scenarios, breakdown for final spots in 2021 playoffs

NBA standings: Seeding scenarios, breakdown for final spots in 2021 playoffs thumbnail

Brace yourselves, basketball fans. The 2021 NBA playoffs are almost here.

There is an added level of intrigue this year with the league implementing a new version of the play-in tournament, which was first seen inside the Florida “bubble” amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of the traditional eight-team fields in each conference, a total of 20 teams will participate in the postseason.

MORE: Latest standings | Daily NBA schedule

With multiple contenders battling for playoff positioning, the final stretch of the regular season should provide plenty of entertainment. 

Here’s a snapshot of the current NBA playoff picture, including the full standings for each conference.

NBA standings 2021: Eastern Conference

Seed Team Record Games back
1. Nets* 43-21
2. 76ers* 42-21 0.5
3. Bucks* 39-24 3.5
4. Knicks 35-28 7.5
5. Hawks 35-30 8.5
6. Celtics 34-30 9
7. Heat 34-30 9
8. Hornets 31-32 11.5
9. Pacers 30-33 12.5
10. Wizards 29-35 14
Bulls 26-38 17
Raptors 26-38 17
Cavaliers 21-43 22
Magic 20-44 23
Pistons 19-45 24

*clinched playoff berth


Eliminated from playoff contention: Magic, Pistons

NBA standings 2021: Western Conference

Seed Team Record Games back
1. Jazz* 46-18
2. Suns* 45-18 0.5
3. Nuggets 43-21 3
4. Clippers 43-22 3.5
5. Mavericks 36-27 9.5
6. Lakers 36-27 9.5
7. Trail Blazers 35-28 10.5
8. Grizzlies 32-31 13.5
9. Warriors 32-32 14
10. Spurs 31-31 14
Pelicans 29-35 17
Kings 26-37 19.5
Thunder 21-43 25
Timberwolves 20-45 26.5
Rockets 16-48 30

*clinched playoff berth

Eliminated from playoff contention: Rockets, Thunder, Timberwolves

How does the NBA play-in tournament work?

  • The play-in tournament will be held after the conclusion of the 2020-21 regular season and before the start of the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs. The teams that finish Nos. 1-6 in the standings of each conference will be guaranteed playoff spots, and teams Nos. 7-10 will enter the play-in tournament.
  • The No. 7 team will face the No. 8 team, and the winner will earn the No. 7 seed in the playoffs. The loser will still have one more opportunity to reach the playoffs.
  • The No. 9 team will face the No. 10 team, and the winner will advance to play against the loser of the No. 7 vs. No. 8 game. The loser of the No. 9 vs. No. 10 game will be eliminated from playoff contention.
  • The loser from the No. 7 vs. No. 8 game and the winner from the No. 9 vs. No. 10 game will then play against each other. The winner of that game will be the No. 8 seed in the playoffs, and the loser will be eliminated from playoff contention.
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NBA playoff picture: Seeding breakdowns

(Remaining strength of schedule via Tankathon and playoff probability via FiveThirtyEight)

Eastern Conference

1. Nets

Remaining games: 8

Remaining strength of schedule: .515

Playoff probability: In

2. 76ers

Remaining games: 9

Remaining strength of schedule: .393

Playoff probability: In

3. Bucks

Remaining games: 9

Remaining strength of schedule: .475

Playoff probability: In

4. Knicks

Remaining games: 9

Remaining strength of schedule: .545

Playoff probability: 90 percent

5. Hawks

Remaining games: 7

Remaining strength of schedule: .458

Playoff probability: 99 percent

6. Celtics

Remaining games: 8

Remaining strength of schedule: .440

Playoff probability: 98 percent

7. Heat

Remaining games: 8

Remaining strength of schedule: .501

Playoff probability: 95 percent

8. Hornets

Remaining games: 9

Remaining strength of schedule: .483

Playoff probability: 56 percent

9. Pacers

Remaining games: 9

Remaining strength of schedule: .494

Playoff probability: 41 percent

10. Wizards

Remaining games: 8

Remaining strength of schedule: .484

Playoff probability: 16 percent

Western Conference

1. Jazz

Remaining games: 8

Remaining strength of schedule: .464

Playoff probability: In

2. Suns

Remaining games: 9

Remaining strength of schedule: .486

Playoff probability: In

3. Nuggets

Remaining games: 8

Remaining strength of schedule: .521

Playoff probability: 99 percent

4. Clippers

Remaining games: 7

Remaining strength of schedule: .429

Playoff probability: 99 percent

5. Mavericks

Remaining games: 9

Remaining strength of schedule: .438

Playoff probability: 98 percent

6. Lakers

Remaining games: 9

Remaining strength of schedule: .527

Playoff probability: 99 percent

7. Trail Blazers

Remaining games: 9

Remaining strength of schedule: .536

Playoff probability: 94 percent

8. Grizzlies

Remaining games: 9

Remaining strength of schedule: .435

Playoff probability: 44 percent

9. Warriors

Remaining games: 8

Remaining strength of schedule: .494

Playoff probability: 48 percent

10. Spurs

Remaining games: 10

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Remaining strength of schedule: .635

Playoff probability: 10 percent

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