Tier 3: Not quite putting it together yet
13. Oklahoma City Thunder
Previous Ranking: 9
Bubble record: 2-2
The Thunder are the “Jekel and Hyde” team of the bubble. One minute, they’re holding the Lakers to 35% shooting. The next, they’re getting blown out by 29 to the Grizzlies. What team will we see in the playoffs?
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has to step up for them to have a chance in a tough first-round matchup. 37% from the field isn’t going to cut it.
12. Philadelphia 76ers
Previous Ranking: 11
Bubble record: 3-1
The 76ers are beyond frustrating. With Ben Simmons, they were an elite defensive team that struggled to click offensively. Without him, as they’ll be for the foreseeable future, they’re a good defensive team with possibly the most frustrating star in the league.
Joel Embiid: you’re a superstar? Act like it. Put in the effort, trust the process.
11. Dallas Mavericks
Previous Ranking: 8
Bubble record: 2-3
If NBA games ended at halftime, the Mavs would be coasting to the Larry O’Brien right now. But alas, games are 48 minutes long and Dallas couldn’t put together a coherent 48 to start its bubble schedule.
But it’s tough to count out Luka Doncic. He can will the Mavs to a win in any game, just look at his ridiculous performance against the Bucks. Dallas can do some damage in the playoffs, it just depends which version of the team shows up.
Tier 4: Dark Horses
10. Indiana Pacers
Previous Ranking: 13
Bubble record: 4-1
Has there been a better story than TJ Warren? A year removed from being traded for the illustrious “cash considerations”, Warren is the breakout star of the bubble with scoring outbursts of 53, 34, 32, 16 and 38. Insane.
And Indiana backs him up with terrific defensive chemistry. This team is going to be a tough out in the playoffs.
9. Houston Rockets
Previous Ranking: 10
Bubble record: 3-1
The Houston Rockets are an enigma. They’re already using an eight-man rotation, and the tallest man in said rotation is Jeff freaking Green at 6-foot-8. This shouldn’t work. It can’t work. But it … works?
Can’t explain it, won’t even try. Of course, it certainly helps when James Harden and Russell Westbrook score 34 and 26 points per game respectively in the team’s four contests. Will they be able to keep it up against teams with dominant big-men? Not sure, but when those two stars play how they’re playing it’s hard to count them out.
8. Portland Trail Blazers
Previous Ranking: 14
Bubble record: 3-2
Okay, all aboard the Blazers’ bandwagon. This team is finally healthy, and it is absolutely clicking. Damian Lillard is unstoppable and CJ McCollum is doing his thing, we knew that already. But the bigs are what’s been really impressive about Portland so far.
Jusuf Nurkic is a total X-factor, with a loud 20 points per game and he clogs up the paint for 11 rebounds. Zach Collins is an absolute force defensively, and there have even been some big shots from Carmelo Anthony.
Portland is a potential eight seed that’s playing like a three seed. If they sneak into the playoffs, the Blazers are going to be a seriously tough out.
Check out the last page for the top seven teams