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NBA Teams On The Play-In Tournament Bubble

Thomas Snodgrass

Updated: Feb 29, 2024

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Sitting ‘on the bubble’ sounds like a perfectly comfortable place to sit, but not in sports.

A little over a quarter of the NBA season remains to be played, but a bunch of teams are still fighting for their playoff lives.

With the No. 7 through No. 10 seeds in each conference duking it out in a Play-In Tournament, the NBA playoffs are NOT guaranteed after 82 games.

The No. 7 and No. 8 seeds will be determined in the Play-In Tournament, which will take place April 16-19.

Here’s how the Play-In works:

First, the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds from each conference will play each other in a win-and-in game. The winners of these games will be the official No. 7 seed in their respective playoff picture.

The losers from these matchups will have another chance to make the No. 8 seed later.

Then, the No. 9 and No. 10 seeds from each conference play, with the loser being ELIMINATED.

Finally, the losing clubs from the No. 7 vs. No. 8 matchups will face the winners of the No. 9 vs. No. 10 matchups.

The winner of these two games become the official No. 8 seeds in their respective conferences.

First, let’s take a look at the Eastern Conference.

Eastern Conference Playoff Odds

In the Eastern Conference, the Boston Celtics (46-12), Cleveland Cavaliers (38-20), and Milwaukee Bucks (38-21) all appear to be locked in the top three spots in the standings.

After that, things get a little murky.

A depleted New York Knicks squad, dealing with injuries to forwards Julius Randle and OG Anunoby and center Mitchell Robinson, have now gone 6-7 since Randle last played on January 27.

New York has fallen to 4th in the East standings, just 1.5 games ahead of the first bubble team, the Indiana Pacers as the current No. 7 seed.

The Miami Heat lost seven of their final eight games in January, only to win eight of their first 10 games in February, surging out of the bubble and into the No. 5 seed.

Philadelphia 76ers’ center Joel Embiid has not suited up since January 30, and he’s not expected back until sometime in April.

No Embiid for the entire month of February led the Sixers to a February record of 4-8, dropping them to the No. 6 seed.

Philadelphia shares the same record as Miami at 33-25 (.569), but the No. 7 Pacers (34-26, .567), and the No. 8 Orlando Magic (33-26, .559) are right on their heels.

When looking at the NBA Playoff picture in the East, theoretically, teams from the No. 4 through the No. 12 spots in the standings still have some life, or a potential demise.

Here’s a look at where the No. 4 through No. 12 seeds currently sit.

TeamRecordWin%Games BackBest Odds To Make PlayoffsBest Odds To Miss PlayoffsBest Odds For Play-In
4. New York35-24.59311.5Off The BoardOff The Board+750
FanDuel
5. Miami 33-25.56913-10000
bet365
+1700
bet365
+380
DraftKings
6. Philadelphia33-25.56913-600
DraftKings
+425
bet365
-360
DraftKings
7. Indiana34-26.56713-900
DraftKings
+650
bet365
-140
DraftKings
8. Orlando33-26.55913.5-1300
FanDuel
+850
bet365
+150
Caesars
9. Chicago28-31.47518.5+320
DraftKings
-375
FanDuel
-1400
Caesars
10. Atlanta26-32.44820+450
DraftKings
-600
FanDuel
-245
DraftKings
11. Brooklyn22-36.37924+1500
bet365
-3500
DraftKings
+270
DraftKings
12. Toronto22-37.37324.5+2000
bet365
-20000
bet365
+1000
FanDuel

The most interesting squad in the East, based on how the standings currently sit, has to be the Chicago Bulls.

Chicago has the shortest odds to be a Play-In participant, but solid +320 odds to make the playoffs.

If the Bulls can pick up two crucial wins in the Play-In, their odds to make the playoffs are a decent value right now.

The Orlando Magic have gone 8-3 in February, and they’ve beaten some strong clubs, with wins over the Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers.

With odds of -1300 to make the playoffs, the Magic are almost a lock to play some postseason basketball, but they have odds of +150 at Caesars to be a participant in the Play-In Tournament.

For bettors that believe Orlando will fail to secure a Top-6 spot in the standings prior to the Play-In should place a bet on those odds now.

Of all teams in the NBA, the Magic have the easiest strength of schedule remaining, with all opponents holding a combined winning percentage of .440.

Orlando will pick up some wins in their final 23 games, but I’m not sure it will be enough to get out of the Play-In bubble.

The Magic are 33-26, which is somewhat disappointing, considering their combined record of 12-18 in December and January.

Orlando’s current record is solid, but they will have some occasionally frustrating losses.

Sticking in Florida, the Miami Heat also have an easy remaining schedule, 26th-most difficult, but I wouldn’t be too surprised to see them regress after their hot February.

If Philadelphia can hold onto one of the Top-6 spots for the rest of the season, and possibly Indiana or Orlando can usurp Miami in the standings, the Heat make for an interesting wager as a Play-In participant.

Miami’s best odds to appear in the Play-In Tournament are +380 at DraftKings.

If the Heat were to struggle in the Play-In and be eliminated from contention, their odds of +1700 to miss the playoffs at bet365 would make an intriguing bet.

Three of the Heat’s next five games are somewhat difficult, playing the Denver Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks, and the Oklahoma City Thunder all on the road.

A potential backward slide for Miami could be starting soon, and that would certainly muddy the waters in the East.

Western Conference Playoff Odds

In the Western Conference, things seem more concrete, with all teams in the top 10 in the West standings currently with 30 or more wins.

But, in the world of sports, there’s always time to throw a wrench in the standings.

The Minnesota Timberwolves (42-17, .712), Oklahoma City Thunder (41-17, .707), and Denver Nuggets (40-19, .678) are firmly entrenched in the top three spots in the Western Conference standings.

Phoenix, New Orleans, and Dallas hold the No. 5, 6, and 7 spots, but there are a few other clubs lurking.

Here’s a look at the current No. 4 through No. 12 spots in the West standings.

TeamRecordWin%Games BackBest Odds To Make PlayoffsBest Odds To Miss PlayoffsBest Odds For Play-In
4. LA Clippers37-20.6494Off The BoardOff The Board+1800
Caesars
5. Phoenix34-24.5867.5-475
DraftKings
+425
bet365
-140
FanDuel
6. New Orleans35-25.5837.5-400
DraftKings
+310
FanDuel
-120
Caesars
7. Dallas34-25.5768-390
DraftKings
+320
bet365
-140
FanDuel
8. Sacramento33-25.5698.5-250
FanDuel
+240
DraftKings
-225
Caesars
9. LA Lakers32-28.53310.5+105
DraftKings
+102
FanDuel
-800
FanDuel
10. Golden State30-27.52611-102
FanDuel
-115
Bet365
-950
FanDuel
11. Utah27-32.45815+1700
bet365
-10000
bet365
+4000
bet365
12. Houston25-33.43116.5+1800
bet365
-15000
bet365
+1800
Caesars

As things currently stand, the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors are sitting on the NBA Playoff fence, with near pick’em odds for both clubs to make or miss the postseason.

Both clubs are almost slam dunks to appear in the Play-In Tournament, and with only two teams representing the No. 7 and No. 8 seeds in the West coming from the Play-In, the Lakers and Warriors are a solid bet on either side.

We all saw how well Los Angeles played during the In-Season Tournament, winning the whole thing, so they are an intriguing +105 value to make the playoffs at DraftKings.

It’s hard to imagine an NBA Playoff without LeBron James or Steph Curry.

That hasn’t happened since 2005, when the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals.

It’s also hard to imagine a playoff without the Phoenix Suns, but there’s a case to be made.

The Suns are the No. 5 seed right now, but they’re only 0.5 games ahead of the No. 7 seed Dallas Mavericks.

Phoenix has the hardest remaining schedule, a combined .568 win percentage over their final 24 games. Half of the Suns games come against some of the NBA’s best, with two games apiece against Boston, Denver, Minnesota, Cleveland, Oklahoma City, and the LA Clippers.

That should be a struggle for Phoenix.

If the Suns were to string together some losses, they could very well find themselves in the Play-In Tournament after the 82-game schedule.

Some combination of the Lakers, Warriors, Mavericks, Kings, or Pelicans could push Phoenix out in the Play-In, which makes the Suns odds to miss the playoffs a potentially valuable +425 at bet365 right now.

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