Zwiller: NBA Standings Predictions
Thomas Zwiller | Wednesday, May 5, 2021
Though it may not feel like it, this weekend, we officially crossed into May, which means the NBA Regular Season is almost over. The season officially ends on May 16th, and as the season comes to an end, I’d like to revisit the NBA one last time and predict where every team is going to finish.
Utah Jazz (52-20)
In my All-Star Column, I said the Jazz could quickly close out the No. 1 Seed, but they have since then dropped off a tad bit. My model still has the Jazz at No. 1, but it is by about .333 of a game.
Phoenix Suns (52-20)
I can’t express how proud I am of this, but since day one of the season, I have had the Suns as a playoff team. But “a playoff team” is a disservice. They are one of the best teams in the West and (by my estimation) will finish second.
LA Clippers 49-23
After last season, I don’t know how confident I am in the Clippers in the playoffs, but they have proven themselves to be a threat and sit at third in my model.
Denver Nuggets 46-26
The Nuggets are playing excellent basketball, led by MVP favorite Nikola Jokic. But Jamal Murray recently tore his ACL, which to me ends the season for Denver. They still finish in fourth, but they likely won’t get out of the first round.
Dallas Mavericks 40-32
The Mavericks were just two games over .500 at the All-Star break, but they should be able to end the season eight over .500. That should be enough for them to stay out of the play-in round.
LA Lakers 40-32
The Lakers have been missing AD and Lebron for a good chunk of the season, resulting in the Lakers falling drastically in the standings. I think they are going to finish in fifth and likely play Denver.
Portland Trailblazers 39-33
I had pegged the Trailblazers as a team that would fall off in the second half of the season, and they did not disappoint. I think they finish seventh, but should advance out of the play-in.
Memphis Grizzlies 38-34
Grizzlies fans should be optimistic about their future this season and beyond. Right now, they should finish a game or two behind the Trailblazers but solidly ahead of Golden State.
Golden State Warriors 36-36
I think that the Warriors can finish at .500, but I don’t think it matters that much. The next Warriors run begins next season, assuming Klay Thompson comes back healthy.
San Antonio Spurs 35-37
The Spurs will finish just under .500, but I don’t expect them to advance beyond the play-in.
Brooklyn Nets 49-23
The Nets are legitimately impossible to get a fix on. I simply have no idea how Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden will mesh considering they have spent only 186 minutes on the court together. Assuming they all stay healthy, they should be able to make a deep run in the East.
Philadelphia 76ers 49-23
Until Joel Embiid had missed 14 games post-All-star Break, he had been my pick to be the MVP. While he has missed a lot of games in the regular season, the 76ers have been able to stay afloat and should finish in second, where they have a legitimate shot to make it to the conference finals.
Milwaukee Bucks 45-27
The Bucks are not the dominant Bucks of the past, winning 56 and 60 games, respectively, but make no mistake: they will still be a problem. This year they are working more on switching and defensive scheming instead of playing how much can we beat a team by tonight basketball. It will lead to a worse record, but a team that is better prepared for the playoffs.
The East Contenders are incredibly challenging to sort through. The Knicks are currently 35-28, the Hawks and Celtics are 34-30, and the Heat aren’t far behind at 33-30. In other words, it is going to be a photo finish, and these teams could be battling on the last day of the season to avoid play-in games.
New York Knicks 40-32
The Knicks have made a complete turnaround from last season, primarily due to their well-coached defense; they have the fifth best defense in the league.
Atlanta Hawks 39-33
At the time, the firing of Lloyd Pierce seemed questionable. However, Nate McMillan has since gone 20-10 and has the Hawks looking at a home playoff series, something unimaginable when they were sub .500 with Pierce.
Miami Heat 38-34
This isn’t where I saw the Heat finishing, battling to sneak by the play in games. I had thought they would be a fourth or fifthth seed based on how they showed up in the playoffs last year. Much like the Celtics, I think the short offseason has hamstrung them in a way it simply didn’t hamstring other teams.
Boston Celtics 38-34
The Celtics, to me at least, are genuinely a head-scratcher. They went 48-24 last season, battled it out to the Eastern Conference Finals, and have since been mediocre. I expected a lot more from this squad at the start of the season and have been soundly disappointed. To be fair to the team, they made a late playoff run, so I think it could be in part due to fatigue. I think they should sneak past the play-in, but they will likely need some help from Miami
Charlotte Hornets 34-38
While I may have the Hornets sitting around the 8th seed (the Wizards and Pacers are less than a game behind in my model), I think this team is better than that. The loss of future rookie of the year Lamelo Ball has, of course, hurt the team, and while they played okay without him, having him back soon ought to make the squad that much better. And an annoying first round out for whoever they face.
Washington Wizards 34-38
The Wizards are on the up and up right now and could be a tough out for the Hornets. While I do like the pairing of Russell Westbrook and Bradley Beal, it won’t win them a playoff series; it might be enough for them to beat the Hornets.
Indiana Pacers 33-39
In a season in which the Pacers correctly traded away Oladipo to get assets, it has been challenging. I think they should make the play-in games, but I think they come up against the Heat and lose.