We’re two weeks into the the NBA restart, and the playoff picture is solidifying. Some teams that have already clinched playoff berths are moving up and down the standings while others are making a surge to earn a play-in series. We’ll rank the top teams in the bubble so far below.
22. Washington Wizards (24-46, 0-6 in bubble)
Troy Brown Jr. and Thomas Bryant have been bright spots for Washington, but the Wizards are winless in the bubble and don’t have a shot at making the playoffs. They weren’t even supposed to make it to the bubble in the first place, so it’s not surprising that they haven’t been competitive.
21. New Orleans Pelicans (30-40, 2-4)
New Orleans has only beaten the winless Wizards and the Memphis Grizzlies. They were eliminated from playoff contention when the Portland Trail Blazers topped the Philadelphia 76ers. Although many expected them to make a run at a play-in series, they weren’t able to do much without Zion Williamson playing significant minutes.
20. Sacramento Kings (29-41, 1-5)
The Kings were eliminated from playoff contention when the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday. The Kings can put up a ton of points with De’Aaron Fox and company, but aren’t quite ready to challenge the best in the Western Conference.
19. Orlando Magic (32-39, 2-4)
The Magic are only in the hunt because the Wizards were too bad to challenge them. Jonathan Isaac’s season-ending knee injury will deal a serious blow to Orlando, as it must fill a glaring hole at small forward. The Magic might end the regular season on a six-game losing streak.
18. Memphis Grizzlies (33-38, 1-5)
Although the Grizzlies only have one win and are dealing with an injury to Jaren Jackson Jr., they’ve been able to hang in there with heavy hitters like the Oklahoma City Thunder and Toronto Raptors. Memphis has something to play for, unlike New Orleans, Washington, and Sacramento.
17. Brooklyn Nets (33-36, 1-5)
Brooklyn got off to a slow start, but Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen are gaining steam. The Nets are locked into the seventh seed and will have a chance to develop chemistry moving forward.
16. San Antonio Spurs (31-38, 2-2)
The Spurs are playing solid basketball with DeMar DeRozan filling in at power forward. The guard play of Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, and others has helped keep the team afloat without LaMarcus Aldridge. San Antonio is developing young talent while playing winning basketball.
15. Philadelphia 76ers (42-28, 3-2)
The 76ers don’t have a quality win in the bubble and are now dealing with injuries to Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Al Horford and Tobias Harris are capable players, but there’s a serious need for playmaking and rim protection.
14. Indiana Pacers (43-27, 4-1)
Indiana has only lost to the undefeated Phoenix Suns. The Pacers’ ceiling might not be high, but T.J. Warren looks like the real deal on offense. Warren, Malcolm Brogdon, and Myles Turner form a decent playoff team without All-Star C Domantas Sabonis. Victor Oladipo’s progression will be important moving forward.
13. Utah Jazz (43-27, 2-4)
Utah has plummeted in the bubble and is suffering defensively. The absence of Bojan Bogdanovic has hurt the Jazz, and they are still trying to find a way to make the most of their current personnel. Can Donovan Mitchell be the consistent star the team needs?
12. Phoenix Suns (31-39, 5-0)
The only undefeated team in the bubble deserves some respect. Devin Booker’s scoring and sturdy team defense has made Phoenix look like a threat to make the playoffs. Kelly Oubre Jr.’s return could make this team even better. Unfortunately for them, the Trail Blazers have a slight edge.
11. Dallas Mavericks (42-30, 2-3)
The Mavericks probably won’t move up or down in the standings and don’t have anything to prove. Luka Doncic gives them a chance to win any game, but he and Kristaps Porzingis are a little banged up. Dallas can make any game interesting, but hasn’t been able to close games very well in the bubble.
10. Portland Trail Blazers (33-39, 4-1)
The Blazers lost a gimme against the Los Angeles Clippers last week, but are only 1⁄2 a game back from the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic have gotten a lot from Gary Trent Jr. and others and appear likely to boot the Grizzlies from the bubble.
9. Miami Heat (43-27, 2-3)
The Heat are hanging in there with Tyler Herro operating as the team’s point guard, but it can only go so far without Goran Dragic and Jimmy Butler. They got a quality win against the Celtics without star power but have lost two straight. Butler is expected to return Monday, however.
8. Oklahoma City Thunder (43-26, 3-2)
The Thunder aren’t flashy but CP3 and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander have kept the team afloat while Dennis Schroder is away. It’s tough to beat top-notch leadership on the court and quality coaching.
7. Denver Nuggets (46-24, 3-2)
The emergence of Michael Porter Jr. could take Denver over the top. The rookie is averaging 25.6 points and 10.2 rebounds per game and has bounced back from his poor debut against the Heat. Nikola Jokic is one of the best playmakers in the league, Jamal Murray is back, and Gary Harris and Will Barton are still waiting in the wings. No team wants a first-round matchup against the healthy Nuggets.
6. Boston Celtics (47-23, 4-2)
Boston has been successful without Kemba Walker being in full swing. The three-headed monster of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Gordon Hayward on the wings will be tough to stop. However, not having a rim protector could hurt them down the road.
5. Los Angeles Lakers (51-18, 2-4)
The Lakers have lost three straight games. LeBron James has looked a step or two slow and Anthony Davis has been held under 10 points twice in the bubble. The Lakers’ stars and role players need to improve significantly to make a deep run in the playoffs.
4. Toronto Raptors (50-19, 4-1)
The defending champs have looked solid since their blowout loss to the Celtics. They might have the most complete team in the bubble and any of their players can go off on any given night.
3. Houston Rockets (44-25, 4-1)
Houston has only lost to the Trail Blazers and is 2-0 without Russell Westbrook. Small ball is working right now, and all the Rockets’ role players are firing on all cylinders. The Rockets could move from sixth in the Western Conference standings to third ahead of the postseason.
2. Los Angeles Clippers (47-23, 3-3)
Even though the Clippers have two legitimate losses, they’re far from full strength. They’ve started to rest Paul George and Kawhi Leonard ahead of the postseason and are close to locking up the second seed in the Western Conference. The Clips have looked much better than the Lakers team they fell to in their seeding debut.
1. Milwaukee Bucks (55-15, 3-2)
Although the Bucks have lost two of their last three games, Giannis Antetokounmpo has been an absolute monster in the bubble. The fact that no team has come close to containing the reigning MVP makes them the clear favorite to win it all.