By Reid McEowen
With the new playoff structure for the 2021 NBA season, seed seven through 10 are going to all be playing to secure themselves a spot in the first round of the NBA. All four teams will be tough matchups in the Western conference play-in tournament. Let’s explore three teams that are likely to make this tournament and put their bid in for a first round matchup against a one or two seed.
The Dallas Mavericks
This young team boasts one of the most promising talents in the entire league in point guard Luka Doncic. However, as the year has gone on, the Mavericks have struggled to find their footing and find themselves sitting comfortably in the seventh seed in the Western Conference. While the Mavericks are not in real danger of falling out of the seventh or eighth seed, they also are unlikely to get ahead of the sixth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers. If the Mavericks continue to struggle into the end of the season, Dallas is likely to struggle in the play-in tournament as momentum will be very important in these games that don’t allow much room for error. However, if the Mavericks can solidify their defensive presence and get everyone healthy, they will be tough to beat in the play-in tournament and could even give the second-seeded Phoenix Suns a run for their money in the first round of the 2021 NBA playoffs.
The San Antonio Spurs
This Texas team is really interesting as they are still fighting to find their identity. The days of the glorious Spurs with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker are no more. Now, this San Antonio team relies heavily on the contributions of DeMar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray. However, they still have the invaluable experience of Greg Popovich and are poised to battle in the play-in tournament. The Spurs are comfortable in their current position and are expected to have to win two tough matchups in the play-in tournament. Expect the Spurs to really struggle as the team does not have a reliable big game player, and the teams around them all have big time players to rely on in big game situations. While this may seem like a slight towards DeMar DeRozan, he has not shown the ability to show up big in big game moments where as guys like Stephen Curry and Luka Doncic have shown the ability to carry the team on their back.
The Golden State Warriors
Similar to the Spurs, the glory days of the Golden State Warriors are likely on hold as they have lost players to free agency and injury. While Klay Thompson is still out due to his injuries, Stephen Curry has tried his best to hold his team in the tenth spot to make the play-in tournament. The two time MVP had his 30-point scoring streak broken against the Washington Wizards, he still seems to be rallying his team late to at least make the play-in tournament. This team is no doubt a scary matchup regardless of who they play. With the fire power Curry brings and the Defensive presence of Draymond Green and James Wiseman, they are sure to cause trouble in the play-in tournament and potentially the first round of the playoffs.
Edited by Emma Moloney