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

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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 standings and potential matchups for each conference.

NBA standings 2021: Eastern Conference

Seed Team Record Games back
1. Nets 41-20
2. 76ers 40-21 1
3. Bucks 37-23 3.5
4. Knicks 34-28 7.5
5. Hawks 34-28 7.5
6. Celtics 32-29 9
7. Heat 32-30 9.5
8. Hornets 30-30 10.5
9. Pacers 29-31 11.5
10. Wizards 27-34 14
Bulls 26-35 15
Raptors 26-35 15
Cavaliers 21-40 20
Pistons 19-43 22.5
Magic 18-43 23

NBA standings 2021: Western Conference

Seed Team Record Games back
1. Jazz* 44-17
2. Suns 43-18 1
3. Clippers 43-20 2
4. Nuggets 40-21 4
5. Lakers 36-25 8
6. Mavericks 33-27 10.5
7. Trail Blazers 32-28 11.5
8. Grizzlies 31-29 12.5
9. Spurs 31-29 12.5
10. Warriors 31-30 13
Pelicans 27-34 17
Kings 25-36 19
Thunder 20-41 24
Timberwolves 18-44 26.5
Rockets 15-46 29

*clinched playoff berth
Eliminated from playoff contention: Rockets, 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. Nets

Remaining games: 11

Remaining strength of schedule: .508

Playoff probability: 99 percent

2. 76ers

Remaining games: 11

Remaining strength of schedule: .421

Playoff probability: 99 percent

3. Bucks

Remaining games: 12

Remaining strength of schedule: .453

Playoff probability: 99 percent

4. Knicks

Remaining games: 10

Remaining strength of schedule: .537

Playoff probability: 84 percent

5. Hawks

Remaining games: 10

Remaining strength of schedule: .488

Playoff probability: 99 percent

6. Celtics

Remaining games: 11

Remaining strength of schedule: .438

Playoff probability: 98 percent

7. Heat

Remaining games: 10

Remaining strength of schedule: .482

Playoff probability: 91 percent

8. Hornets

Remaining games: 12

Remaining strength of schedule: .480

Playoff probability: 56 percent

9. Pacers

Remaining games: 12

Remaining strength of schedule: .501

Playoff probability: 48 percent

10. Wizards

Remaining games: 11

Remaining strength of schedule: .494

Playoff probability: 6 percent

Western Conference

1. Jazz

Remaining games: 11

Remaining strength of schedule: .478

Playoff probability: In

2. Suns

Remaining games: 11

Remaining strength of schedule: .531

Playoff probability: 99 percent

3. Clippers

Remaining games: 9

Remaining strength of schedule: .492

Playoff probability: 99 percent

4. Nuggets

Remaining games: 11

Remaining strength of schedule: .519

Playoff probability: 99 percent

5. Lakers

Remaining games: 11

Remaining strength of schedule: .507

Playoff probability: 99 percent

6. Mavericks

Remaining games: 12

Remaining strength of schedule: .435

Playoff probability: 93 percent

7. Trail Blazers

Remaining games: 12

Remaining strength of schedule: .544

Playoff probability: 74 percent

8. Grizzlies

Remaining games: 12

Remaining strength of schedule: .417

Playoff probability: 61 percent

9. Spurs

Remaining games: 12

Remaining strength of schedule: .611

Playoff probability: 17 percent

10. Warriors

Remaining games: 11

Remaining strength of schedule: .455

Playoff probability: 51 percent

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