NBA playoff standings 2017: Updating the postseason picture as it changes

Keep up to date on the race for playoff seeding, as well as the tank-off at the top of the NBA draft lottery.

The NBA playoffs begin on April 15. The standings are beginning to shape up, but there’s still a lot that won’t be determined until every regular season game has concluded. Whether Golden State or San Antonio ends up with the top seed in the Western Conference is one unknown, and making sure Cleveland holds onto the No. 1 spot in the East is also still up in the air.

Right now, this is what we do know about the playoff races. Tiebreakers will factor in for some race at some point, in all likelihood. There will be important games that haven’t been played yet. At this point, what teams have remaining on the schedule matters immensely, since there’s such a small portion of the season left.

Here’s all the information you should know about every team with a chance at making the playoffs — well, you know, at least a realistic one.

Last update: March 25.

If the playoffs started today …

WESTERN CONFERENCE

(1) Golden State Warriors vs. (8) Denver Nuggets

(2) San Antonio Spurs vs. (7) Memphis Grizzlies

(3) Houston Rockets vs. (6) Oklahoma City Thunder

(4) Utah Jazz vs. (5) Los Angeles Clippers

EASTERN CONFERENCE

(1) Cleveland Cavaliers vs. (8) Miami Heat

(2) Boston Celtics vs. (7) Indiana Pacers

(3) Washington Wizards vs. (6) Milwaukee Bucks

(4) Toronto Raptors vs. (5) Atlanta Hawks

Important playoff races

No. 1 SEED IN THE EAST

1. Cavaliers: 47-25

2. Celtics: 47-26 (0.5 GB)

3. Wizards: 45-28 (2.5 GB)

4. Toronto: 44-29 (3.5 GB)

The Cavaliers keep leaving the door open for the Celtics to claim the No. 1 seed with disjointed performances. Boston has one of the easiest remaining schedules in the league, so it’s entirely possible Cleveland slips to the No. 2 seed. Meanwhile, Toronto is closing hard on Washington for the No. 3 seed.

Current tiebreaker: Wizards-Celtics is tied at 2-2, and the Celtics have a three-game lead in conference record, so they will likely earn that tiebreaker. The Raptors have the head-to-head tiebreaker over Washington and Boston. Cleveland has a 2-1 lead on Boston with one game left to play.

Who has the toughest schedule? Washington by a long shot. The Wizards only have two home games left, plus a five-game road trip that starts in Cleveland and ends in Golden State. They started that trip, though, with a convincing win over the Cavaliers.

Remaining games: Cleveland at Boston on April 5.

No. 5-6-7-8 SEEDS IN THE EAST

5. Hawks: 37-35

6. Bucks: 37-35

7. Pacers: 36-36

8. Heat: 35-37

9. Bulls: 34-39 (1.5 GB)

10. Pistons: 34-39 (1.5 GB)

Six teams are within three and a half games of each other, fighting for the final three spots in the Eastern Conference. Indiana, Milwaukee, and Miami would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, while Detroit and Chicago would fall out.

Current tiebreaker: Too many to say right now, but Milwaukee’s 9-4 division record could benefit them greatly here. The teams with the best conference records in order are Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, Milwaukee, Indiana, and Detroit.

Who has the toughest schedule? The Bucks still have to play Boston twice more, and there’s not many home games remaining for them. Still, they surprised most by completing a 4-2 West coach trip.

Remaining games: Bucks-Bulls in Milwaukee on March 26, Heat-Pistons in Detroit on March 28, Pistons-Bucks in Milwaukee on March 31, Hawks-Bulls on April 1, Hawks-Pacers on April 12.

No. 1 SEED IN THE WEST

1. Golden State: 58-14

2. San Antonio: 56-16 (2 GB)

San Antonio roared back while the Warriors were slumping to take the West’s top seed, but Golden State has regained control without Kevin Durant. If the Spurs win the last match-up between these two teams, they could regain the upper hand.

Current tiebreaker: San Antonio is up 2-0 in head-to-head matchups.

Who has the tougher schedule? San Antonio only has three games left against non-playoff opponents (and one is Portland, who beat the Spurs on March 15.)

Remaining games: Warriors-Spurs in San Antonio on March 29.

No. 4-5-6-7 SEED IN THE WEST

4. Utah: 44-29

5. Los Angeles Clippers: 44-30 (0.5 GB)

6. Oklahoma City: 41-30 (2 GB)

7. Memphis: 40-32 (3.5 GB)

The Jazz have struggled of late, putting their No. 4 seed in jeopardy. The Clippers had a pulled even closer by trashing Utah by 13 on March 25. Meanwhile, Memphis suffered a critical loss to lottery-bound New Orleans.

Current tiebreaker: The Clippers and Thunder have split the season series, 2-2, though OKC has a better divisional record by one win. The Thunder lead the Grizzlies in the season series, 2-1, and the Clippers hold the tiebreaker against Memphis, 3-1. The Clippers hold a 2-1 advantage over Utah with a game to play.

Who has the tougher schedule? Utah has six games against potential playoff opponents remaining this season. The Clippers have a lighter schedule with only three games against playoff opponents on tap. OKC sees Houston and San Antonio before the end of March and sees four playoff opponents in April. Memphis will play the Spurs TWO more times and has matchups against Golden State, Indiana, and OKC.

Remaining games: Thunder-Grizzlies in Memphis on April 5 (second of an OKC back-to-back).

NO. 8 SEED IN THE WEST

8. Denver: 35-37

9. Portland: 34-38 (1 GB)

The Nuggets have fallen back to the pack, and Portland pulled back within reach with a win over the Timberwolves.

Current tiebreaker: Portland leads the season series over Denver, 2-1, with one more game to play in Portland. Portland has a 7-3 division record compared to just 5-8 for Denver, so a Nuggets victory in the final head-to-head matchup is unlikely to matter for tiebreaker purposes.

Who has the tougher schedule? Portland finishes with eight of its final 11 games at home, while Denver plays six of its final eight games on the road.

Remaining games: Denver at Portland on March 28.

Playoff tiebreakers

TWO TEAMS TIED

(1) Better winning percentage in games against each other

(2) Better winning percentage against teams in own division (only if tied teams are in same division).

(3) Better winning percentage against teams in own conference.

(4) Better winning percentage against teams eligible for playoffs in own conference (including teams that finished the regular season tied for a playoff position).

(5) Better winning percentage against teams eligible for playoffs in opposite conference (including teams that finished the regular season tied for a playoff position).

(6) Better net result of total points scored less total points allowed against all opponents (“point differential”).

MORE THAN TWO TEAMS TIED

(1) Better winning percentage in all games among the tied teams.

(2) Better winning percentage against teams in own division (only if all tied teams are in the same division).

(3) Better winning percentage against teams in own conference.

(4) Better winning percentage against teams eligible for playoffs in own conference (including teams that finished the regular season tied for a playoff position).

(5) Better net result of total points scored less total points allowed against all opponents (“point differential”)

Important Lottery Notes

The highest odds at the No. 1 overall pick are headed to the Brooklyn Nets, who have all but clinched the league’s worst record at 15-57, light years behind the next-worst teams. That pick, though, is headed to Boston, but there are a few competitions that could make for some interesting end-of-the-year tank sessions across the board.

BEST ODDS AT LANDING PICK NO. 2 AND 3

2. Los Angeles Lakers: 21-51

3. Phoenix: 22-51 (0.5 GB)

The Lakers are serious danger of falling into the third-worst spot, hurting their odds of keeping their pick altogether. If L.A. picks fourth or later, the pick moves to the 76ers.

Who has the tougher schedule? Every game is tough for these teams.

What’s at stake: The Lakers will lose their first-round pick this year and in 2019 if it falls outside of the top three. That’s all the reason in the world to shut it down.

ODDS AT LANDING PICK NO. 4 AND 5

4. Orlando: 27-46

5. New York: 27-46

6. Philadelphia: 27-45 (0.5 GB)

7. Sacramento: 27-45 (0.5 GB)

8. New Orleans: 30-42 (3.5 GB) PICK GOES TO SACRAMENTO UNLESS IN TOP 3

This race is anyone’s game, though the Pelicans don’t have a horse after sending their pick to the Kings in a trade package for DeMarcus Cousins. Orlando’s victory over Philadelphia was not good for its tanking chances. The Knicks rested several players against Portland to ensure a road loss.

Who has the tougher schedule? The Magic have seven games remaining against teams competing for playoff position. The Kings have five such games, the 76ers have seven, and the Knicks have eight, and have reduced Carmelo Anthony’s minutes.

What’s at stake? Nothing but higher odds at landing a draft pick. Philadelphia has the option to swap first-round picks with the Kings. If luck falls the Pelicans’ way, they can keep their pick if it lands in the top three. The more they lose, the better their long shot is.

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