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Final Playoff Push: The Hottest Teams in the NBA

Jaylen Brown putting fake binoculars on
Credit: X/@celtics

With only about 25 games left for the season, let’s take a look at some of the hottest teams in the NBA right now!

The 2023 – 2024 NBA season is slowly coming to an end, with about 6 weeks left until the playoffs commence. The playoffs will officially begin on April 20th, with the play-in tournament happening through April 16th – 19th. It’s been 3 seasons since the play-in tournament was implemented and there is still discourse around the league whether or not it’s a good idea.

Your seeding is determined by your record: the better the record the higher a teams seeding will be. Before the 2019 – 2020 season, it used to be that the top 8 seeds in each conference would make the playoffs without question. Now, only the top 6 seeds can make it into the postseason 100% guaranteed. Seed numbers 7 and 8 are determined through the play-in tournament in which seeds 7 – 10 duke it out in a one game elimination match.

The play-in tournament is something a lot of teams want to avoid due to the unpredictable nature of the one game elimination match. Despite how the matchup looks going into a playoff series, every team has a chance.

It takes 4 games to put away a team in the NBA playoffs. Teams don’t want to spend 82 games giving their all on the court just to go home in April because their opponent is red hot. All of this to say that every team that is looking to go on a deep playoff run should avoid the play-in tournament at all costs.

Boston Celtics

The Bolton Celtics have been a powerhouse in the league for some time now. This year is no different as they currently hold the 1 Seed in the Eastern Conference.

As we head into March, the Celtics are looking for a repeat of February as they only lost one game in the entire month. They hold a 9 game win streak and are dominating the Eastern Conference of the NBA.

Jayson Tatum post interview
Jayson Tatum after a game in which he dropped 32 PTS, 8 REB, 3 AST.
Credit: YouTube/@Tomasz Kordylewski

A huge part of why they’re so successful is their one-two-punch superstar duo of Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum. The Jays are averaging 22 and 27 points per game respectively. Specifically, Tatum is currently 4th in the MVP ladder, and he definitely deserves to be in that conversation.

With the off-season acquisitions of Jrue Holiday and Kristaps Porzingis, the Celtics have never looked more poised for a championship run than they are right now.

For them, it’s always been about getting over the Los Angeles Lakers and winning their 18th franchise championship. They had their chance against the Warriors in 2022. But, after taking a 2-1 lead, they lost three straight and helped Steph Curry to his 4th NBA title.

Their stellar defense and explosive offense make them a team that’s hard to beat. They will surely be a force in the postseason and my pick to represent the East in this year’s NBA Finals.

Orlando Magic

Staying in the Eastern Conference, the Orlando Magic are here to make their claim in the playoff race.

They were the 7th seed which would mean they would participate in the play-in game. However, Paolo Banchero and the rest of the Magic have different plans for their playoff path. In February, the team went 9-3. They’re only one game behind the New York Knicks who are currently the 4th seed. As of March 7th, 2024 the Orlando Magic are the 4 seed in the Eastern Conference! Paolo Banchero continues to lead his team to gritty win after gritty win. He is shaping up to be a superstar in Orlando for years to come.

They hope to keep up the pace they’re at and make the playoffs for the first time since 2020.

Paolo Banchero at a post-game interview
Paolo Banchero at a post game interview giving all the credit to his teammates for the win.
Credit: X/@OrlandoMagic

As mentioned previously, Paolo Banchero leaped between years 1 and 2 of his NBA career. He’s averaging 22 points and 5 assists a game. He’s a crucial piece to the Magic’s defense and offense and a huge part of why they’re finding so much success.

The Orlando Magic are a young team, so their future is bright. With that in mind, their lack of experience isn’t deterring them from making a run and secure a stable spot in the NBA Playoffs!

Oklahoma City Thunder

Moving on to the Western Conference, the city of Oklahoma should feel blessed to have one of the most exciting young teams in the league.

They are the 2nd seed and are absolutely electrifying to watch. Headlined by their superstar, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who’s averaging a smooth 32 and 6 assists per game.

The beautiful thing about this team is that they have so many playmakers and players who can step up on any given night. It also helps to have a center who’s 7’1 and not afraid to block some shots.

Chet Holmgren at a post game interview
Chet Holmgren discussing his relationship with NBA veterans such as Gordon Hayward.
Credit: X/@okcthunder

Last year, the Oklahoma City Thunder selected Chet Holmgren with the second overall pick.

Unfortunately, due to an injury in his right foot, he had to miss the entirety of the 2022 season.

This is his first year in the league, despite being drafted last year, and he is showing why it paid off to take him second overall. He is an athletic freak, akin to this years first overall pick Victor Wembanyama. This makes him a huge contributor to the Thunder’s quick turnaround.

The main discourse surrounding this team and its playoff success is due to them being so young. A lot of analysts and fans are placing a lot of emphasis on experience. Despite their impressive roster and record of 41-18, a lot of individuals are looking at them as a first-round exit. No matter what the outcome may be, the Thunder will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.

Dallas Mavericks

The Dallas Mavericks are the 7th seed in the Western Conference. Their current position in a stacked Western Conference is a dark horse of sorts. They’re currently sitting outside of the playoffs but are only a couple of games under the 4th seed.

Luka Donic after a game
Luka Dončić talking to a reporter about how the new team additions are meshing well together.
Credit: X/@dallasmavs

Luka Dončić is leading this team with 35 points and 10 assists per game! He is playing at an MVP level and is 5th in MVP voting.

In February, they went 8-4 and are currently with a record of 34-25.

Similarly to the Magic, they’re hoping to continue with this pace secure a playoff spot, and avoid the play-in tournament.

One move the Mavericks organization made to help secure that coveted playoff spot was the mid-season acquisitions of Daniel Gafford and PJ Washington from the Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets respectively.

PJ Washington is a threat to score from the 3 point line, especially if Luka or Kyrie Irving are being double teamed.

Luka and Kyrie are such a dynamic duo and the heads of a high powered offense, defense is often something this team struggles with. Daniel Gafford is a defensive minded center, something this team benefits from heavily.

They’re a team that can get red-hot at the right moments and take over a game or even a playoff series. Only time will be able to tell how far the Mavericks can go in the NBA playoffs.

If you’re interested in how the Super Bowl played out, check out my last article!

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