NBA Playoff Race Update: Are the Detroit Pistons Playoff-Bound?
Every Friday from now until the end of the season, we're dropping a new edition of this column to update the NBA playoff picture.
We'll explore each team's playoff probability (based on our algorithms), divide each conference into different tiers of playoff hopefulness, and then discuss any movement among the teams from week to week. The tiers are as follows:
These are teams with a playoff probability of 99% or more. These teams would have to have the meltdown of the century to miss out on the playoffs.
These are the teams that have a good to very good chance of making the playoffs but still need to earn their spot and hold off other teams to get there.
Dead or Dying
These teams will need a miracle to make the playoffs or have already been eliminated.
(1) Cleveland Cavaliers (51-21, clinched)
(2) Toronto Raptors (48-22, clinched)
(3) Atlanta Hawks (42-30, 99.8%)
(4) Boston Celtics (42-30, 100.0%)
(5) Miami Heat (41-30, 99.9%)
(6) Charlotte Hornets (41-30, 99.9%)
Since last week, both the Cavaliers and Raptors have clinched playoff berths and remain separated by only two games in the standings (although we think Cleveland will ultimately keep the top seed). Meanwhile, the Hawks, Celtics, Heat, and Hornets remain within half a game of each other in the standings and look destined to stay locked in a dead heat for the two remaining home-court seeds for the rest of the way. For what it's worth, we've got them all projected to win 47 games, filling out those 3-6 seeds in an order adhering to the extensive tiebreaker rules (which shift, depending on how many teams are tied at the end of the season -- familiarize yourself with the tiebreaker rules to understand the possible scenarios better).
(7) Indiana Pacers (38-33, 93.6%)
(8) Detroit Pistons (38-34, 69.7%)
(9) Chicago Bulls (36-35, 20.6%)
(10) Washington Wizards (35-36, 16.6%)
The Pacers remain a near-lock for the playoffs, but their playoff odds dropped from 96.4% last week to 93.6% this time around, so they can't move up into the Sure Things group just yet. The 8-seeded Pistons jumped the Bulls in the standings this week and have created a 1.5-game cushion for the East's final playoff spot, going 4-0 to Chicago's 2-2 since our last update. With that, the Pistons have seen their playoff odds increase from 56.2% to 69.7%, while the Bulls dropped from 33.5% to 20.6%. Meanwhile, the Wizards went up ever so slightly from 15.4% to 16.6% after having a 2-1 week, maintaining their puncher's chance at the postseason at 2.5 games behind the 8-seeded Pistons.
Dead or Dying
(11) Milwaukee Bucks (30-42, 0.0%)
(12) New York Knicks (30-43, 0.0%)
(13) Orlando Magic (29-42, 0.0%)
(14) Brooklyn Nets (20-51, eliminated)
(15) Philadelphia 76ers (9-63, eliminated)
The Nets and the 76ers remain the only officially eliminated teams in the Eastern Conference, but the Bucks, Knicks, and Magic all stand a 0.0% chance of making the postseason, according to our algorithms. Last week, the Magic were holding onto a slim 0.2% chance, but after going 0-4 since our last update and dropping below the Knicks in the standings, that has dried up.
(1) Golden State Warriors (64-7, clinched)
(2) San Antonio Spurs (60-11, clinched)
(3) Oklahoma City Thunder (50-22, clinched)
(4) Los Angeles Clippers (44-27, 100.0%)
(5) Memphis Grizzlies (41-31, 100.0%)
The Thunder became the third team to clinch a playoff berth in the Western Conference this week and have managed to put some distance between themselves and the Los Angeles Clippers for the 3 seed after going 4-0 to the Clippers' 1-3 since our last update. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies moved from having a 99.6% chance of making the postseason -- according to our algorithms -- to 100.0% after a 2-1 week. Even with a severely depleted roster, the Grizz have a six-game cushion in the standings over the current 9 seed in the Western Conference, so it's highly improbable that they drop that far over their 10 remaining games.
(6) Portland Trail Blazers (37-36, 94.6%)
(7) Dallas Mavericks (35-36, 62.2%)
(8) Houston Rockets (35-37, 76.1%)
(9) Utah Jazz (35-37, 67.0%)
A week later and the 6 to 9 seeds in the Western Conference remain separated by only 1.5 games. The Blazers have raised their postseason odds from 92.4% to 94.6% after a 2-2 week, inching ever closer to gaining a spot in the Sure Things group. The Mavericks hold a half-game lead over the Rockets and Jazz, but our algorithms like them to both overtake Dallas to secure the final two playoff spots in the conference before season's end (albeit by a very narrow margin). The Jazz were a game back on both teams a week ago, but they have moved into a lock with the Rockets after beating them on Wednesday and are now only half a game behind the Mavericks as well. Utah's 16.2% jump in playoff chances from last week's 50.8% represents our biggest odds increase from last week to now.
Dead or Dying
(10) Denver Nuggets (30-42, 0.1%)
(11) Sacramento Kings (27-44, 0.0%)
(12) New Orleans Pelicans (26-45, 0.0%)
(13) Minnesota Timberwolves (23-48, eliminated)
(14) Phoenix Suns (20-51, eliminated)
(15) Los Angeles Lakers (15-56, eliminated)
The Timberwolves were officially eliminated from Western Conference playoff contention this week, joining the Suns and Lakers. The Kings lost the 0.1% chance of making the postseason that they held last week after going 1-3, but the Nuggets are holding onto their 0.1% for dear life after going 2-1. Meanwhile, the Anthony Davis-less Pelicans went 1-3 and continue to have 0.0% hope of a repeat appearance in the playoffs after grabbing the 8 seed last year.