The final day of the regular season is Wednesday and the finish line is in sight. The NBA playoffs begin Saturday. For 16 teams, their season will continue as they will battle for the NBA title. For 14 others, they'll set their sights on the upcoming NBA Draft lottery, the draft itself and free agency.
It's been a remarkable season to say the least. It's had some downs with way too many injuries, but the ups have been incredible. The Raptors' offense was a complete surprise, the Rockets look like they can actually challenge for a title, and a fourth straight Finals rematch between the Cavaliers and Warriors doesn't feel like an inevitability.
The smaller stories throughout the season were fun. The NBA had its usual brand of craziness featuring and , but the overall quality put out on a nightly basis was a treat for all hoop fans. Never have teams felt closer in the standings -- just look at the Western Conference playoff race where several teams are still only separated by one or two games. It's been that way all season long and it's been fun to watch.
Then we have the tankers. This season in particular felt top and bottom heavy at the same time. Only three teams really hung around the outside of the race as fringe playoff-caliber teams while the rest were either in playoff contention all season, or tanking for the draft by March. It definitely made box score-watching entertaining.
With only three days left, let's try to enjoy the rest of the NBA season for what it's worth. You won't realize how much you're going to miss it until it's gone.
|Philadelphia has won 14 in a row and is in an intense playoff race with Cleveland. The 76ers control their own destiny and have a very winnable schedule to finish out the season. A date with either the Heat, Wizards or Bucks feels inevitable.||1||51-31|
|The Rockets have the top seed locked up. Now, it's time to see if they can actually pose a legitimate threat to knock off the Warriors. Are they a true challenger to Golden State or is this just another really good regular season team ready to fizzle out in the playoffs?||1||20-62|
|Utah clinched a playoff spot on Sunday and pulled itself to within one game of a top-three seed in the Western Conference. However, the Jazz close out the season with games against the Warriors and Trail Blazers. They can catch Portland, but it's not going to be easy. They should lock up home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.||--||49-33|
|LeBron James and the Cavs are playing great, but they might finish with the fourth seed after losing to the 76ers on Friday. Fun fact: James has never once finished with the No. 3 seed. He's always been first, second, or fourth during his career. A fourth-place finish means they'd have a date with the Pacers and Lance Stephenson, James' old nemesis.||4||44-38|
|Toronto have the top seed in the Eastern Conference locked up and yet no one is confident about its chances of reaching the Finals. A matchup with the Bucks would be the best-case scenario for Toronto, since it already beat Milwaukee in last season's playoffs. Could this finally be the year the Raptors look impressive in the first round?||2||48-34|
|The Warriors have the second seed locked up. They aren't afraid of anybody, but Golden State would probably prefer the Nuggets or Timberwolves to the Spurs or Pelicans in the first round. New Orleans and San Antonio's size could give fits the Warriors would rather avoid.||--||53-29|
|Portland has lost three in a row and allowed the Jazz back into the race for the No. 3 seed. Luckily, the Blazers control their own destiny. Win the final two games and they'll have that seed locked up. Although this creates an interesting decision they might have to make. Would Portland prefer to set itself up for a potential second-round matchup against the Rockets, or the Warriors?||2||27-55|
|The Celtics are locked into the two seed. Unfortunately for them, they will not have Kyrie Irving for their playoff run. This is a talented group, but an upset in the first round is a real possibility. If there's someone they would prefer to play it's probably Milwaukee.||4||51-31|
|Indiana probably has the easiest playoff path to worry about. The Pacers are going to be the fifth seed in the conference, which means they will play either the Cavs or 76ers. Although both matchups are tough, they're probably hoping for the Sixers. Nobody wants to play LeBron James in the first round. Ever.||1||25-57|
|New Orleans is in a tight race with a tough final two games to finish the season. A win over the Clippers on Monday clinches a playoff berth, which would make the season finale against the Spurs about seeding. No pressure.||2||36-46|
|The Thunder missing the playoffs would be an absolute disaster. They're only one game ahead of ninth place, but as long as they don't lose their final two games they should be fine.||--||24-58|
|The Nuggets are alive. They're tied for the eighth seed with Minnesota and will play them in the season finale. Denver controls its own destiny -- if it wins out then it is in -- but the path won't be easy with a game against Portland on Monday.||3||48-34|
|The Clippers were eliminated from playoffs contention in the final days of the regular season. That's pretty incredible considering how many injuries they faced, and they didn't lose a step after trading Blake Griffin. The West was just too much this season.||--||42-40|
|The Spurs are one game ahead of ninth place with two games left. If they win out then they'll lock up a spot in the playoffs. It's as simple as that. They're not in a position to pick and choose their playoff opponent. They'll probably be happy to just get in and get the highest seed possible, but they could cause some problems for the Blazers||5||34-48|
|Miami has already punched a ticket to the playoffs and the highest it can finish in the conference is sixth. Miami would probably prefer a date against an injured Celtics team over any other team in the first round. Toronto would be fun because of its past struggles, but no team ever wants to finish eighth.||1||53-29|
|The Timberwolves needs to beat the Nuggets in the season finale to get into the playoffs for the first time since 2004. A win against Memphis would help too. Fortunately, Jimmy Butler is back and he might be the boost they need to finish the job.||--||46-36|
|The Bucks have clinched the playoffs and actually have a chance to raise their seed. They would probably prefer the injured Celtics over anybody else in the first round, but they aren't in a position to pick and choose. A rematch with the Raptors wouldn't go well and it's just general policy to avoid LeBron James in the opening round. Maybe the 76ers would be a better option, but Philly is scorching hot.||--||51-31|
|Detroit has been eliminated from the playoffs. Now, they enter the offseason asking a lot of questions about the future of Stan Van Gundy. Does the ownership group trust SVG to turn things around as president and coach, or will both sides break up in the offseason?||1||23-59|
|John Wall came back and the Wizards are still spiralling downward. It doesn't matter what playoff seed they get, because it's going to go one of two ways: They either unlock their potential and go on a massive upset-filled run, or they explode in a fire and are quickly eliminated. There is no in between for this group.||1||35-47|
|The Lakers weren't a real threat to make the playoffs, but they've easily had the most successful season among the teams in the middle of the pack. Thanks to the development of their young core, they have already seen a 12-game improvement from last season. There's a lot of potential in Los Angeles.||--||33-49|
|What a disappointment for Charlotte. A popular playoff pick, the Hornets could never get out of their own way and consistently failed to take the opportunities given to them. They have already moved on from Rich Cho and hired Mitch Kupchak as his replacement. Will he retain Steve Clifford?||--||43-39|
|We all know the Nets entered the season without their 2018 first-round draft pick, which makes it all the more surprising that Brooklyn found a way to be just about as terrible as every other team tanking for a top pick. Injuries certainly played a part, but the Nets were shockingly awful this season.||--||44-38|
|Atlanta could have been the worst team in the league this season, but good coaching and a solid system went a long way toward creating wins. The Hawks know what they want to do and Mike Budenholzer gets them to do it. That has helped the Hawks win some games they probably should have no business winning.||3||43-39|
|The Kings were one of the NBA's worst teams before they started giving their young guys more minutes. What they lost in the tank race they gained in developing their young players. Most front offices will take that.||1||30-52|
|The Bulls climbed their way out of the lottery race with wins over the Hornets and Wizards. An relatively easy schedule at Brooklyn and at home against Detroit could push them all the way up to the eighth-best odds.||1||46-36|
|The Magic should not have been as bad as they were this season, but injuries derailed them and they never recovered. Orlando has a brutal schedule to finish the season, with games against the Bucks and Wizards. Losing out would put them in range for the third-best lottery odds.||3||22-60|
|New York went from a fringe playoff contender to one of the worst teams in the Association in record time after the Kristaps Porzingis injury. However, the Knicks were always on borrowed time. Their archaic offensive system had to bite them in the butt at some point.||--||37-45|
|Memphis has thrown out some odd-ball lineups which have resulted in terrible losses. The won't Grizzlies can't catch the Suns in the race for most lottery balls, but that doesn't mean they won't have a solid shot at the No. 1 overall pick.||3||56-26|
|Dallas has the same problem as Atlanta. The Mavericks are a really bad basketball team that could have been worse if not for good coaching. With only one game left this season, Dallas could go from third-best odds to fifth in the lottery with a win against Phoenix on Tuesday.||1||52-30|
|Phoenix rank last in offense, defense and net rating. It's no surprise they clinched the NBA's worst record and the best draft lottery odds on Sunday night. They've earned it.||--||64-18|