Top seeds, play-in chaos and lottery odds: What all 30 NBA teams are playing for now

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Top seeds, play-in chaos and lottery odds: What all 30 NBA teams are playing for now

The NBA regular season ends May 16. But we still have so much to figure out!

Will the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets or Milwaukee Bucks secure the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference? Can the surging Phoenix Suns outduel the Utah Jazz in the race for the Western Conference’s top seed?

Can the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers avoid the play-in tournament? Can teams such as the Washington Wizards, Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs hold on to their spots?

Will the New York Knicks really capture a top-4 seed?

Those are a lot of questions. The next two weeks will answer all of them. Until then, here’s where our panel sees all 30 teams — each with something to play for during the regular season’s final stretch.

Note: Throughout the regular season, our panel (ESPN’s Tim Bontemps, Nick Friedell, Andrew Lopez, Tim MacMahon, Dave McMenamin, Royce Young and Ohm Youngmisuk) is ranking all 30 teams from top to bottom, taking stock of which teams are playing the best basketball now and which teams are looking most like title contenders.

Previous rankings: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13 | Week 14 | Week 15 | Week 16 | Week 17 | Week 18 | Week 19

1. Phoenix Suns
2020-21 record: 46-18
Previous ranking: 3

With their playoff spot already clinched, the only thing left to decide for the Suns is seeding. And Phoenix is shooting for the stars. The Suns have their eyes on the top overall seed. If the Suns can beat out the Jazz and take the No. 1 overall seed into the playoffs, it will be the first time they’ve done so since 2005, when they were ousted in the conference finals. (Phoenix also secured the No. 1 overall seed in 1981 and 1993.) — Lopez

This week: @CLE, @ATL, NYK, @LAL


2. Utah Jazz
2020-21 record: 46-18
Previous ranking: 1

The race for the NBA’s best record and the West’s top seed could go down to the wire, but it isn’t the Jazz’s priority at this point, particularly with the likelihood of the Lakers and/or Clippers being involved in the 4-5 matchup. Utah hopes to be fully healthy going into the playoffs, so they will be as patient as necessary with All-Star guards Donovan Mitchell (sprained ankle) and Mike Conley (hamstring tightness). Ideally, the Jazz will have at least a handful of games down the stretch with their full roster to reestablish rhythm entering the postseason. — MacMahon

This week: SAS, SAS, DEN, HOU


3. Philadelphia 76ers
2020-21 record: 43-21
Previous ranking: 5

After surviving an overtime game in San Antonio on Sunday night thanks to a Ben Simmons tip-in, Philadelphia is now one up in the loss column on the Nets — plus the tiebreaker — with eight games to play, putting the Sixers in prime position to snag the all-important top seed in the East. Another factor in Philadelphia’s favor: Only one of its final eight games (at Miami) comes against a team in the top eight of either conference. — Bontemps

This week: @CHI, @HOU, NOP, DET


4. Brooklyn Nets
2020-21 record: 43-22
Previous ranking: 2

Sunday’s showdown against the Bucks felt like a playoff game, but it also carried seeding significance. There’s incentive, particularly for the Nets, to move to the No. 1 seed, because that means the second-round matchup would be the 4-5 winner (currently the Knicks or Hawks), instead of the 3-6 victor (currently the Bucks or Celtics). Milwaukee is still within striking distance of catching the Nets for the No. 2 seed too, especially with these teams turning around and playing again on Tuesday. — Young

This week: @MIL, @DAL, @DEN


5. Denver Nuggets
2020-21 record: 43-21
Previous ranking: 7

Denver continues to defy expectations without Jamal Murray. Since Murray went down with a season-ending injury, the Nuggets are 9-1. And they’ve been without Will Barton and Monte Morris, who could be nearing a return. Nikola Jokic is not only playing like the MVP, he has his team competing with confidence and composure. Michael Porter Jr. has taken off. The Nuggets handled the Clippers again, and Denver is now in the driver’s seat for the third seed in the West. Avoiding a first-round series against the Lakers would be ideal, but the most important thing for the Nuggets is to get healthier, keep Jokic fresh and maintain their groove heading into the postseason. — Youngmisuk

This week: @LAL, NYK, @UTA, BRK


6. Milwaukee Bucks
2020-21 record: 40-24
Previous ranking: 6

By beating Brooklyn on Sunday, the Bucks kept their hopes alive of moving up from third in the East. Now, they face a massive rematch against Brooklyn on Tuesday in Milwaukee, where the Bucks will have a chance to move within a game in the loss column — and grab the tiebreaker. If Milwaukee wins, it remains a real threat for the second seed (and possibly even the top spot, if Philly falters down the stretch). If Milwaukee loses, it’s time to start resting guys and preparing to finish third, as the Bucks would essentially be down three games to Brooklyn with seven to play. — Bontemps

This week: BRK, WAS, HOU


7. LA Clippers
2020-21 record: 43-22
Previous ranking: 4

The Clippers have lost three straight but none more stinging than their most recent to Denver. The Nuggets won the season series and the crucial tiebreaker, and they overtook the Clippers for third place in the West. Seeding likely will be important only from the standpoint of avoiding a potential first-round matchup with the Lakers. Really, the most critical thing for the Clippers over these final seven games is to define roles and develop chemistry with Kawhi Leonard back. Patrick Beverley is nearing a return, and Serge Ibaka continues to work his way back. It’s imperative for the Clippers to see what they can do at full strength, if only for a few games, before the postseason starts. — Youngmisuk

This week:


8. New York Knicks
2020-21 record: 36-28
Previous ranking: 10

The Eastern Conference’s hottest team has earned itself the inside track to the fourth seed and home-court advantage in the first round. New York is 1.5 games ahead of the Hawks and 2.5 games in front of the Celtics with eight to play. A difficult task lies ahead beginning Monday night in Memphis: a five-game trip through the Western Conference against playoff teams in Memphis, Denver, Phoenix and both L.A. teams. — Bontemps

This week: @MEM, @DEN, @PHO, @LAC


9. Los Angeles Lakers
2020-21 record: 36-28
Previous ranking: 8

The defending champs are currently in crisis mode. The return of Anthony Davis and LeBron James from injuries hasn’t helped L.A. build off the momentum the team was able to muster while the stars were sidelined. With eight games left, the Lakers are in real danger of falling to the play-in tournament, where their repeat hopes could be dashed in one or two games before the playoffs even begin. — McMenamin

This week: DEN, @LAC, @POR, PHO


10. Dallas Mavericks
2020-21 record: 36-28
Previous ranking: 9

Heading into Monday’s action, the Mavericks are locked in a three-way tie for fifth with the Lakers and Blazers in what could become one of the most fascinating races in the Western Conference. One of those three will be relegated to the play-in tournament. And with every game mattering down the stretch, Dallas can’t afford to lose Luka Doncic for any of them. Doncic received his 14th and 15th technical fouls of the season during Sunday’s loss to the Kings; one more is an automatic one-game suspension. — MacMahon

This week: @MIA, BRK, CLE, @CLE


11. Portland Trail Blazers
2020-21 record: 36-28
Previous ranking: 12

After an awkward few weeks, the Blazers have righted the ship and have gotten out of the play-in spot. They’ve won four straight, all on the road, with CJ McCollum working back to full strength and the role players stepping up. For Portland, avoiding the play-in is the priority; with a favorable schedule to close out, chances are looking much better than they did a week ago. — Young

This week: @ATL, @CLE, LAL, SAS


12. Atlanta Hawks
2020-21 record: 35-30
Previous ranking: 11

When the Hawks fired head coach Lloyd Pierce at the start of May, Atlanta was 11th in the Eastern Conference. Fast-forward two months and the turnaround under Nate McMillan has been so drastic that the Hawks could find themselves with home-court advantage in the first round. The Hawks, Celtics and Heat are all looking up at the Knicks for the No. 4 spot — and whoever finishes last among that bunch will be sent to the play-in tournament at No. 7. — Lopez

This week: POR, PHO, @IND


13. Miami Heat
2020-21 record: 35-30
Previous ranking: 13

Miami has won four of its past five contests and appears to be rounding into form heading in the postseason. Kendrick Nunn has had a nice stretch recently, averaging 20.4 points over his past five games. The same goes for Bam Adebayo, who is averaging 19.4 points, 8 rebounds and 6 assists over his past five outings. The Heat are tied with the Hawks for the fifth seed in the East and are just two games behind the Knicks for the fourth seed and home-court advantage. — Friedell

This week: DAL, MIN, @BOS


14. Boston Celtics
2020-21 record: 34-31
Previous ranking: 14

While Boston has to be concerned about finding itself in the play-in tournament after losing to the Blazers on Sunday night, of far greater concern is the health of Jaylen Brown, after he and Jayson Tatum collided in the final minute of that defeat and left the game. Brown was unable to put any weight on his right leg. No matter how Boston does over these final games, it has no chance of doing anything in the playoffs if Brown isn’t available. — Bontemps

This week: @ORL, @CHI, MIA


15. Golden State Warriors
2020-21 record: 32-32
Previous ranking: 16

The Warriors come into the final two weeks of the regular season sitting half a game behind the Grizzlies for the eighth spot and half a game ahead of the Spurs for 10th in the Western Conference standings. Stephen Curry will be the reason nobody in the West wants to see the Warriors in the play-in tournament. Curry comes into Monday’s game against the Pelicans as the league leader in scoring at 31.3 points per game. — Friedell

This week: @NOP, @NOP, OKC, OKC


16. Memphis Grizzlies
2020-21 record: 32-31
Previous ranking: 15

The Grizzlies are trying to hold off the Warriors and Spurs in the fight for eighth place in the West, which has become a lot tighter after Memphis lost three of its past four. That’s a significant spot: It assures a team two chances of claiming a postseason bid in the play-in tournament. Memphis also is tinkering with the bench rotation while trying to get Jaren Jackson Jr. up to speed after the franchise cornerstone missed most of the season due to knee surgery. — MacMahon

This week: NYK, @MIN, @DET, @TOR


17. Charlotte Hornets
2020-21 record: 31-33
Previous ranking: 17

Charlotte sure won’t be coasting into the play-in tournament. The Hornets sit half a game ahead of the Pacers for the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference and just two games ahead of the Wizards for 10th. Some great news: LaMelo Ball (wrist) returned to the floor on Saturday night for the first time since March 20 and immediately created highlight-reel moments in a win over the Pistons. — Friedell

This week: @DET, CHI, ORL, NOP


18. Washington Wizards
2020-21 record: 29-35
Previous ranking: 20

Washington is 10-2 in its past 12 tilts, with its only losses coming in overtime to San Antonio and by one point to Dallas. Somehow, after their COVID-19 outbreak, the Wizards have put themselves in position to at least make the play-in tournament. This is an absolutely critical week, with two games against ninth-place Indiana. Getting into ninth or eighth means potentially facing the Hornets or Pacers, rather than a potential play-in matchup as the 10th seed against perhaps Miami, Boston or Atlanta. A lot can happen in the final stretch, but this week will have a playoff feel for Washington against Indiana twice, Milwaukee and Toronto. — Youngmisuk

This week: IND, @MIL, @TOR, @IND


19. San Antonio Spurs
2020-21 record: 31-32
Previous ranking: 18

With nine games remaining, San Antonio will continue to jockey for position in the West play-in race. It’ll take a lot of work for the Spurs to catch the Trail Blazers (or the Mavericks or Lakers) at No. 7, so the race for the No. 8 spot is on. San Antonio will have to move forward without Derrick White, whom the team doesn’t expect back this season because of a sprained right ankle. — Lopez

This week: @UTA, @UTA, @SAC, @POR


20. Indiana Pacers
2020-21 record: 30-33
Previous ranking: 19

Fresh off of serving Oklahoma City the worst home loss in NBA history, Indiana can get its focus back on seeding in the play-in race in the East. The Pacers are trailing the Hornets for the eighth seed but have a game and a half cushion on the Wizards for 10th place. It’ll be easy to catch Charlotte, however, if the Pacers could continue to post franchise records in points like they did against the Thunder. Indiana also has more chances to look at how things work with Domantas Sabonis and Caris LeVert on the floor at the same time. The Pacers are 9-9 this season when both play. — Lopez

This week: @WAS, SAC, ATL, WAS


21. Toronto Raptors
2020-21 record: 27-38
Previous ranking: 21

Sunday night’s impressive road win over the Lakers still leaves Toronto with a very steep hill to climb to make it into the play-in tournament, as the Raptors are 2.5 games behind the Wizards with nine remaining. What will likely matter more in the end to the Raptors is where they finish alongside the Bulls and Kings for positions seven through nine in the NBA draft lottery. — Bontemps

This week: @LAC, WAS, MEM


22. New Orleans Pelicans
2020-21 record: 29-35
Previous ranking: 22

The Pelicans’ play-in tournament hopes could be decided by Tuesday night. New Orleans has back-to-back games against the Warriors starting Monday evening (7:30 ET on ESPN). The Warriors are three games ahead of the Pelicans in the race for the play-in tournament, and the teams also play each other in the penultimate contest of the regular season. But two wins by the Warriors this week and New Orleans can start prepping for the offseason. — Lopez

This week: GSW, GSW, @PHI, @CHA


23. Sacramento Kings
2020-21 record: 27-37
Previous ranking: 24

Two wins in a row, including Sunday’s victory over the Mavericks, have Sacramento 4.5 games behind the Spurs — who’ve lost three in a row — for the final play-in spot. Potentially hampering that playoff push is Tyrese Haliburton‘s status after injuring his left knee in the win over the Mavs. — McMenamin

This week: @OKC, @IND, SAS, OKC


24. Chicago Bulls
2020-21 record: 26-38
Previous ranking: 23

The Bulls are three games behind the Wizards for the final play-in spot in the East. All the high hopes the Bulls had after acquiring Nikola Vucevic have disappeared. Zach LaVine hasn’t played since April 14 because of COVID-19 protocols. The Bulls are 4-10 in their past 14 games, and they have a rough stretch during the final two weeks of the season, which includes Monday’s game against the Sixers and two against the Nets. — Friedell

This week: PHI, @CHA, BOS, @DET


25. Minnesota Timberwolves
2020-21 record: 20-45
Previous ranking: 28

Even though they don’t have much to play for, the Timberwolves are approaching the final few weeks looking to string some more victories together. They could rest starters and try to improve their chances at another top-3 pick, but the Wolves are hoping to begin building a winning mentality and momentum into next season. They are 6-4 over their past 10 games and just put together a four-game winning streak, getting it snapped in overtime against New Orleans. — Young

This week: MEM, @MIA, @ORL


26. Cleveland Cavaliers
2020-21 record: 21-43
Previous ranking: 25

The Cavs are still technically alive in the chase for a play-in spot — trailing No. 10 Washington by eight games with eight games left to play. But considering Cleveland is 1-9 in its past 10 while the Wizards are 8-2, it’s all but over. And that’s merciful, considering how weird of a week it was for the Cavaliers, with Kevin Love needing to apologize to teammates for carelessly batting a ball in bounds against the Raptors and then attempting zero shots in 22 minutes two games later. — McMenamin

This week: PHO, POR, @DAL, DAL


27. Orlando Magic
2020-21 record: 20-44
Previous ranking: 29

Cole Anthony provided one of the best highlights of a difficult season by knocking down a buzzer-beater to top the Grizzlies on Saturday night. Anthony finished with 26 points. It’s going to be interesting to see how the 20-year-old rookie guard pairs with Markelle Fultz next season. The Magic are well out of the playoff picture and are hoping for some lottery luck; they own the Bulls’ 2021 first-rounder if it stays out of the top four. — Friedell

This week: @DET, BOS, @CHA, MIN


28. Detroit Pistons
2020-21 record: 19-45
Previous ranking: 27

The Pistons’ late-season struggles — they’ve now lost nine out of 12 — do come with a silver lining: Detroit is already officially eliminated from postseason contention, guaranteeing it will keep its 2021 first-round pick. The Pistons owe Houston a first-round pick as part of November’s sign-and-trade deal for Christian Wood, but it is top-16 protected this year. Pistons general manager Troy Weaver will have that selection, plus three second-rounders, to work on the rebuild this offseason. — McMenamin

This week: ORL, CHA, MEM, @PHI, CHI


29. Oklahoma City Thunder
2020-21 record: 21-44
Previous ranking: 26

The Thunder’s 57-point loss to the Pacers was probably the low point of the season, but it really wasn’t all that surprising of an outcome. They’ve been playing fewer and fewer rotation-level NBA players, instead approaching the last few weeks with a very developmental and experimental mindset. They’ve made major progress on securing top-4 lottery odds, though; they are currently fifth worst, and with the Timberwolves rising, things are looking up (down?) for OKC. — Young

This week: SAC, @GSW, @GSW, @SAC


30. Houston Rockets
2020-21 record: 16-49
Previous ranking: 30

It’s pretty much a certainty that the Rockets will finish with a bottom-3 record, meaning Houston will be in the bunch that has the best draft lottery odds. The rest of the season is about developing the Rockets’ young core, particularly 20-year-old guard Kevin Porter Jr. He became the youngest player in NBA history to record a 50-point double-double in a breathtaking performance against the Bucks last week, a lightning bolt of promise in a thunderstorm of a season. — MacMahon

This week: PHI, @MIL, @UTA

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Hi, my name is Ankita Dixit. I started writing from young age and most of my writing skills and knowledge are self taught. Currently, I am working as a professional writer at Paisa.co. I have write on various topics including travel, motivation, finance, technology, credit cards, insurance and entrepreneurship etc.