Playoffs

NBA Swing: Teams With the Most on the Line in the Playoffs

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With the playoffs just under a month away, several teams have clinched a spot in the postseason with the final seeds yet to be determined. This upcoming postseason feels different compared to previous postseasons. This upcoming postseason, there is a lot on the line for multiple teams with big moves and potential shakeups on the way. 

 

Boston Celtics 

For seven seasons, the duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have turned the Boston Celtics into a legitimate title contender. In the seven seasons the two have played together, Boston has lost in the conference finals three times and has lost in the finals once. Many have questioned if Boston’s core can bring them banner number 18 or if they’ve already reached their ceiling. After trading for big man Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday, Boston has had a tremendous season, likely finishing with the best record in the NBA. While this season is not officially championship or bust, there is very little Boston could do to get better than they are right now. In the worst-case scenario, Boston faces an early playoff exit or loses in the finals, the scrutiny of the two J’s will continue. Many will debate if Jayson Tatum can be a true number one option for a championship contender as well as if Jaylen Brown’s $300 M contract can be justified when Tatum will be set for a contract just as big in a couple of seasons. Even with their core under contract for a few more seasons, another year not winning a championship will only create cracks in Boston.

 

Los Angeles Lakers 

Both LA teams have a lot to do depending on the playoffs. For the Lakers who are currently sitting in the Play-In Tournament, the goal is to make the playoffs. If the Play-In tournament were to start today, they would be facing the 10th-seed Golden State Warriors in the 9/10 matchup. If they could make it past Golden State, they would face the loser of the 7/8 matchup, either the Dallas Mavericks or Phoenix Suns. If they could somehow beat one of those teams as well and make it into the playoffs, they’re immediately looking at OKC, Minnesota, or (in a worst-case scenario) the Nuggets. With LeBron James having a player option and his son likely getting drafted this offseason, success in the playoffs may be the Lakers’ last chance of keeping LeBron. 

 

Los Angeles Clippers

For the Clippers, injuries are always a concern with the team come playoff time. With just a few weeks to go before the start of the playoffs, the Clippers are healthy for the most part. The big three of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and James Harden are all healthy. The biggest injury on the team right now is Russell Westbrook, who is expected to return from his fractured hand in early April. Seen by many as a sleeper title contender, one injury could destroy their championship hopes. While Kawhi has signed an extension with the Clippers, Paul George has not, and Harden is expecting a big contract from the team this summer. If the Clippers do not make a deep playoff run, there is every possibility that Paul George could leave in the summer. Recent reports have suggested the Philadelphia 76ers as well as several mystery Eastern Conference teams will be looking at PG this summer. With the Clippers moving into a new arena, this playoff run could determine what stars suit up in LA next season.  

 

Cleveland Cavaliers

Like last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers will likely finish as a top-four seed, landing home-court advantage. If the playoffs started today, they would be facing the Philadelphia 76ers, which could either be a good thing or a bad thing depending on if Joel Embiid returns for the playoffs. Like last season, the rumors of Donovan Mitchell wanting out of Cleveland will only get louder if they lose early in the playoffs. Since being traded to Cleveland, Spida has been linked to the New York Knicks and Miami Heat as potential places he’d want to play. With Mitchell having a player option for the 2025-26 season, an early playoff exit could see Mitchell request a trade or tell the team he’ll be declining his player option next offseason. Cleveland would still have a solid team if they were to lose Mitchell, but they would take a step back in an Eastern Conference that has only gotten stronger in recent years.

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