Last season marked the debut of the NBA’s Play-In Tournament, where the seventh and eighth seeds in each conference compete for the No. 7 playoff spot, and the ninth and tenth seeds compete to play the loser of the seven/eight match up, with the winner earning the No. 8 spot.
In other words: seven vs. eight — winner advances to playoffs as seventh seed, loser plays the winner of the nine vs. ten matchup. Nine/ten winner vs. seven/eight loser — winner advances to playoffs as eighth seed. So the ninth and tenth seeds need to win two consecutive games in order to advance.
In the West last season, the Lakers defeated the Warriors in the No. 7/8 matchup, advancing as the seventh seed, while the Grizzlies defeated the Spurs in the No. 9/10 matchup and then beat the Warriors to advance as the eighth seed.
In the East last season, the Celtics defeated the Wizards to advance as the seventh seed, while the Pacers defeated the Hornets in the No. 9/10 matchup but then lost to the Wizards, so Washington was the eighth seed. Ultimately, all of the seventh and eighth seeds fell in the first round of the playoffs last season.
This season, the current Nos. 7-10 seeds in the West are the Lakers (23-23), Timberwolves (22-23), Clippers (23-25) and Trail Blazers (19-26). Only two games (four losses) separate the No. 9 Clippers from the No. 6 Nuggets (23-21). The No. 5 Mavericks (26-20) are also within reach, but the top four seeds have separated from the pack.
At the bottom-end of Western play-in contention, less than three games separate the No. 10 Blazers from the No. 11-13 seeds, the Pelicans (17-28), Kings (18-30) and Spurs (17-29).
The East is extremely competitive this season, as the No. 7 seed Hornets (26-20) are only three-and-a-half games out of first place, so the top end of the standings are very much in flux. The Nos. 1-6 seeds all have between 26 and 30 wins and 16 and 19 losses, a separation of just three games.
There’s another distinct cluster in the standings, with the current Nos. 8-12 seeds all within three games of each other. Those teams are the Raptors (22-21), Wizards (23-23), Celtics (23-24), Knicks (23-24) and Hawks (20-25). (The Celtics lead the Wizards 91-69 on Sunday at the time of this release.)
We want to know what you think. Who will make the Play-In Tournament this season in both conferences? Are there any clear-cut favorites? Who will advance as the seventh and eighth seeds? Will any teams currently in the top six in either conference drop down?
Head to the comment section below to share your thoughts!