Every NBA team's playoff chances ranked from pipe dream to probable

Los Angeles Lakers v Charlotte Hornets
Los Angeles Lakers v Charlotte Hornets / David Jensen/GettyImages
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The Probable Tier

Boston Celtics (43-12)

The Boston Celtics came into the season as an Eastern Conference favorite and NBA title contender. Nothing has changed, as the Celts have had the best record in the league all season long. Kristaps Porzingis and Jrue Holiday are great fits, and the loss of Marcus Smart hasn't been as problematic on the defensive end as feared. Boston's going to the playoffs; the question is whether they will hang on to the top seed.

Cleveland Cavaliers (36-17)

Any concern about the Cleveland Cavaliers making the playoffs was put to rest by its season-high nine-game winning streak, which came to a close when the Cavs lost in a close shave to the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night. The supporting cast is jelling around Donovan Mitchell, who is playing at an MVP level. Cleveland can start turning its focus towards overcoming the hump that startled them in the playoffs last year.

Denver Nuggets (36-19)

The defending champions aren't at the top of the standings - yet - but there's no concern about the Denver Nuggets missing the playoffs. Nikola Jokic has a decent chance to capture his third MVP trophy, which could cushion the blow of Jamal Murray being excluded from All-Star festivities again. The team recently lost back-to-back games against Sacramento and Milwaukee, but there's no reason to panic.

LA Clippers (36-17)

Earlier this season, it seemed easy to doubt the LA Clippers. Kawhi Leonard can never stay healthy, Russell Westbrook is a loose cannon, and adding James Harden to the mix made for a combustible competition. Well, Ty Lue has turned his team into one of the best in the NBA since the trade for Harden. Despite the discontent of Bones Hyland and PJ Tucker, the Clippers are going to the playoffs, and maybe further.

Milwaukee Bucks (35-21)

It's rare for a team that's playoff-bound to fire its first-year head coach in the middle of the season, but that's what happened in Milwaukee when Doc Rivers replaced Adrian Griffin. The Bucks have struggled since the coaching change, though their recent defensive efforts have suggested the team is returning to top form in the conference form. They'll be one of the more fascinating teams to track for the rest of the campaign.

Minnesota Timberwolves (39-16)

Best in the West? It took a year, but Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns figured out how to play together, with the former looking like the defensive behemoth he once was. Anthony Edwards, meanwhile, has taken the expected step to superstardom. Mike Conley holds it all down, just as he's done throughout his underrated career. The minimum goal this year should be winning the team's first playoff series in two decades.

New York Knicks (32-22)

Things have gotten a little complex for the New York Knickerbockers entering the All-Star break. Health has been an issue, and the team enters the pause on a four-game losing streak, including its controversial loss to the Houston Rockets. There are few teams that need to take a breather more than the Knicks, but their playoff position is still relatively secure.

Oklahoma City Thunder (36-17)

It's been thrilling to see the Oklahoma City Thunder take the next step this season. Led by their young nucleus of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Chet Holmgren, the team showed it was all-in when it acquired veteran Gordon Hayward at the trade deadline. The prize isn't just the playoffs for OKC, but it's a good start.

Philadelphia 76ers (32-21)

The Philadelphia 76ers built enough of a cushion to make a playoff case, especially thanks to the emergence of Tyrese Maxey. But that's where the positive ends in the City of Brotherly Love, where all eyes are on injury updates for Joel Embiid. At this point, it's unclear if the reigning MVP will return this season, which could dash any hopes for a deep run for the Sixers.