Can DeMar DeRozan lead the Spurs back into the postseason? (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)
- The NBA Play-In tournament takes place between May 18th and May 21st
- Postseason spots are still fluid in both conferences with play-in berths up for grabs
- Which teams represent the best value to make the playoffs?
It’s just a fortnight until the 2021 NBA Play-In Tournament. Starting on May 18th, seeds seven to 10 in each conference will enter an elimination tournament to decide the final two postseason spots. Seven and eight will play for the seven seed, with the loser playing the winner of nine versus 10 to decide who gets the eighth seed.
Looking at the NBA playoff odds in the East, the Hawks, Heat and Celtics are all trying to avoid the seven seed and the play-in tournament. Barring a miraculous run from Toronto, it’s going to be Washington, Indiana and Charlotte in eight to 10. The three could yet shuffle their positions around, though, which will see further movement in the odds to make the playoffs.
The picture is different in the West. Sitting 11th, the New Orleans Pelicans still have a slight chance of catching the 10 seed Spurs. Positions are changing every night, with the Lakers climbing from seventh to fifth following a win over the Nuggets. Golden State and Memphis look locked in to the play-in, but it’s unclear where they will fall.
Odds to Make 2021 NBA Playoffs
|Team||Odds to Make Playoffs||Odds to Miss Playoffs|
|Los Angeles Lakers||-5000||+1200|
|Golden State Warriors||+100||-125|
|San Antonio Spurs||+340||-500|
Odds as of May 04 from FanDuel & DraftKings
A backloaded schedule has hit the Spurs hard. They were an overachiever earlier in the campaign, but they have regressed in recent weeks, falling to the eight seed. The Pelicans’ Monday night loss to the Warriors will have them feeling more comfortable about holding onto a play-in spot, though making the postseason itself seems very unlikely.
San Antonio is 13-19 since the All-Star break with a -1.1 net rating. The Charlotte Hornets, who have played without LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward for most of that period, are the only potential postseason team with a worse net rating over that span.
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) May 4, 2021
Their remaining schedule is brutal. Their game with the Kings on May 7th is the only one they will be favored in. Being caught by New Orleans might still be unlikely with Stan Van Gundy’s team struggling to win games, but the Spurs are not exactly going to take a good run of form into the play-in tournament.
San Antonio will likely need to beat the Warriors or Grizzlies then one of the Blazers, Lakers or Mavericks to make the first round. They are very much deserving of their -500 price.
No Stopping Steph
It has become a staple of NBA conversation to mention that no team wants to face Steph Curry in a play-in situation. Draymond Green and Juan Toscano-Anderson repeated those sentiments on Monday night. They are right.
Draymond on Steph: “Teams are terrified of him — and everywhere he runs on the floor with or without the ball — teams are terrified.”
— Nick Friedell (@NickFriedell) May 4, 2021
Golden State’s win over the Pels put them eighth. As it stands, they would travel to Portland, knowing a win would take them into the postseason. Curry vs Damian Lillard for a playoff spot is not only basketball perfection for the neutral, it also represents a brilliant opportunity for the Warriors. With how Curry has been playing, a spot in the top half of the play-in tournament would make the Warriors a great bet to reach the first round. It’s hard to see them losing back-to-back games with the two-time MVP shooting at this rate.
The Pelicans are almost out of it. With two more games against them, and two more with Oklahoma City, the Warriors have a favorable schedule. The season-ending game with the Grizzlies could prove pivotal as teams jockey for play-in positioning.
JTA on Steph Curry
-“If you in a street fight and you have Mike Tyson on your side, how you going to feel?”
-“He’s just a magnet.” pic.twitter.com/Pkk6sHOejR
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) May 4, 2021
Betting against Curry right now is not a good idea. The Warriors are a great bet to make the playoffs at +100.
Magic From the Wizards
Only the red-hot Knicks have a better net rating than the Wizards over the last 13 games. Russell Westbrook is putting up historic numbers every night. Bradley Beal could yet win the scoring title. They might still only be 10th in the Eastern Conference, but Washington is only 1.5 back on Charlotte for the eight seed.
Russell Westbrook will average a triple-double in a season for the 4th time in his career. Oscar Robertson is the only other player to do this & he did it once in 1961-62.
He could record 0 pts, rebs & 0 asts in every game the rest of the season & still average a triple-double. pic.twitter.com/kOzjsVAzCw
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) May 4, 2021
Just like the Warriors, it’s beautifully poised. They finish the season with the Pacers, Hawks, Cavaliers and Hornets. Having gone 11-2 over their last 13, the Wizards are rolling, and may well keep this run going to get into the top half of the play-in tournament. Much like Curry and Golden State, the sheer star power of Westbrook and Beal makes the Wizards a threat whatever their position.
Few teams in the Association are playing better basketball than these Wizards right now. This is still a flawed roster, and Westbrook delivering in a close elimination game is far from guaranteed, but they have got healthy (compared to Charlotte and Indiana, at least) and their confidence is higher than it has been all season.
Russell Westbrook has the third 10-20-20 game in NBA HISTORY.
He has one of the other two.#WizPacers | @russwest44 pic.twitter.com/ZSyyA0gDQ0
— Washington Wizards (@WashWizards) May 4, 2021
The +164 price might not seem great for a team in 10th, facing consecutive road games to make the postseason, but there’s a realistic path to the eight seed. It’s worth backing the Wizards now before those odds shorten.
Pacers Likely to Miss Out
The Indiana Pacers have some winnable games to come. Their showdown with Washington on Saturday is obviously crucial. They also have some rough matchups with the Sixers, Bucks and Lakers. Ultimately, though, schedule and play-in chances are irrelevant unless they get suddenly healthy.
Injury update: Edmond Sumner has a left knee contusion and is questionable to return to tonight’s game.
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) May 4, 2021
Indiana hasn’t beaten a non-tanking team since they got the better of the Grizzlies on April 11th. Domantas Sabonis has finally returned, but Malcolm Brogdon sat out on Monday, joining Jeremy Lamb, Myles Turner and T.J. Warren on the sidelines.
Sitting ninth and with an average schedule, the Pacers are likely in the bottom half of the play-in. Their inability to beat good teams is a problem in an elimination scenario – their -200 price to miss the playoffs might be the best bet on the board.