The 2020-21 NBA regular season will reach a conclusion on May 16 and there is still plenty to play for, as teams look to secure their place in the playoffs and build some momentum ahead of postseason.
Seven teams have already sealed their playoff berths, including the star-studded Brooklyn Nets and the Giannis Antetokounmpo-led Milwaukee Bucks, but others are still fighting for their place in postseason, including defending champions Los Angeles Lakers, who are in danger of missing out.
Stuttering Brooklyn Should Come Good
The Nets were the first team to seal their spot in the playoffs from the Eastern Conference and head coach Steve Nash has done a good job at getting his star-studded roster playing in unison.
Brooklyn certainly have a line-up that is the envy of most teams in the NBA, with the likes of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and James Harden in their ranks and the latter is expected to return for the playoffs after spending over a month on the sidelines with a hamstring issue.
Harden’s absence has certainly been felt and there has been a clear drop-off from the Nets since they secured their place in the postseason, as they have lost four of their last five games, a run that has seen the Philadelphia 76ers move back above them at the top of the Eastern Conference standings.
Nash will be hoping Saturday’s victory at the Denver Nuggets signals a return to form for his team and, if the Nets can keep their star players fit for playoffs, then they must be considered serious contenders at
2/1 to be crowned NBA champions this year.
Lakers Feeling LeBron Absence
There can be no underestimating just how important LeBron James is to the LA Lakers, as the defending NBA champions looked set to comfortably make their way into the playoffs prior to the four-time MVP injuring his ankle back in March.
The injury forced James to miss 20 games before he made his return at the end of April, but that comeback was short-lived, as the 36-year-old has since suffered a recurrence of the same issue.
In the absence of James, the Lakers have slipped from second in the Western Conference to seventh following a run of eight defeats in 10 games.
With only the top-six teams in each Conference being guaranteed a playoff berth, the Lakers are facing up to the possibility of having to compete in the newly formed play-in tournament to secure their place in the postseason.
The good news is James should not be sidelined for long and it still seems unlikely that the Lakers will miss out on the playoffs, while it would be no surprise to see them go all the way and defend their title at
Jazz Should Not be Under-estimated
The Utah Jazz were the first team to seal their place in this season’s playoffs and they are guaranteed to finish at least second in the final Western Conference standings.
Spearheaded by all-star Donovan Mitchell, the Jazz have recorded the most victories of any team in the NBA this season, winning 50 of their 68 games to date.
Quin Snyder’s team have also proved they can cope in the absence of Mitchell, as they are currently on a five-game winning run despite the 24-year-old having been unavailable since mid-April with an ankle problem.
The expected return of Mitchell ahead of the playoffs will also be a timely boost for the Jazz, who must be considered contenders at
17/2 to claim their first NBA Championship.
*All odds correct at time of writing