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

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. 76ers* 47-21
2. Nets* 44-24 3
3. Bucks* 43-24 3.5
4. Knicks 37-30 9.5
5. Hawks 37-31 10
6. Heat 36-31 10.5
7. Celtics 35-32 11.5
8. Hornets 33-34 13.5
9. Wizards 32-36 15
10. Pacers 31-36 15.5
Bulls 28-39 18.5
Raptors 27-41 20
Magic 21-46 25.5
Cavaliers 21-46 25.5
Pistons 20-48 27

*clinched playoff berth
Eliminated from playoff contention: Cavaliers, Magic, Pistons

NBA standings 2021: Western Conference

Seed Team Record Games back
1. Jazz* 50-18
2. Suns* 48-19 1.5
3. Clippers* 45-22 4.5
4. Nuggets* 44-24 6
5. Mavericks 39-28 10.5
6. Trail Blazers 39-29 11
7. Lakers 37-30 12.5
8. Warriors 35-33 15
9. Grizzlies 34-33 15.5
10. Spurs 32-35 17.5
Pelicans 30-37 19.5
Kings 29-38 20.5
Thunder 21-47 29
Timberwolves 20-47 29.5
Rockets 16-52 34

*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.

NBA playoff picture: Seeding breakdowns

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

Eastern Conference

1. 76ers

Remaining games: 4

Remaining strength of schedule: .407

Playoff probability: In

2. Nets

Remaining games: 4

Remaining strength of schedule: .407

Playoff probability: In

3. Bucks

Remaining games: 5

Remaining strength of schedule: .442

Playoff probability: In

4. Knicks

Remaining games: 5

Remaining strength of schedule: .543

Playoff probability: 96 percent

5. Hawks

Remaining games: 4

Remaining strength of schedule: .373

Playoff probability: 99 percent

6. Heat

Remaining games: 5

Remaining strength of schedule: .534

Playoff probability: 98 percent

7. Celtics

Remaining games: 5

Remaining strength of schedule: .448

Playoff probability: 98 percent

8. Hornets

Remaining games: 5

Remaining strength of schedule: .558

Playoff probability: 56 percent

9. Wizards

Remaining games: 4

Remaining strength of schedule: .474

Playoff probability: 30 percent

10. Pacers

Remaining games: 5

Remaining strength of schedule: .519

Playoff probability: 22 percent

Western Conference

1. Jazz

Remaining games: 4

Remaining strength of schedule: .458

Playoff probability: In

2. Suns

Remaining games: 5

Remaining strength of schedule: .519

Playoff probability: In

3. Clippers

Remaining games: 5

Remaining strength of schedule: .396

Playoff probability: In

4. Nuggets

Remaining games: 4

Remaining strength of schedule: .415

Playoff probability: In

5. Mavericks

Remaining games: 5

Remaining strength of schedule: .393

Playoff probability: 99 percent

6. Trail Blazers

Remaining games: 4

Remaining strength of schedule: .583

Playoff probability: 99 percent

7. Lakers

Remaining games: 5

Remaining strength of schedule: .482

Playoff probability: 96 percent

8. Warriors

Remaining games: 4

Remaining strength of schedule: .602

Playoff probability: 59 percent

9. Grizzlies

Remaining games: 5

Remaining strength of schedule: .482

Playoff probability: 36 percent

10. Spurs

Remaining games: 5

Remaining strength of schedule: .655

Playoff probability: 8 percent

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