This week, we’ll take a look at some underdog teams that could sneak into the Playoffs in each conference.
Eastern Conference – Charlotte Hornets
The Charlotte Hornets are a very interesting team. While they are sitting at .500 and only 0.5 games back of the Detroit Pistons they have yet to play any stretches of the season at full strength. With hopes of getting big Al Jefferson back soon they are only going to get stronger. The Hornets are the only team not in the playoffs in the eastern conference with a positive point differential at 0.7.
There are two big factors that go into my reasoning for picking the Hornets to push into the playoffs. First they have won 7 of their last 10 and are on 2 game winning streak. While they are not great on the road they are only 4 games out of the 4 seed which would position them to have home court for their first playoff series which they are 10 games above .500 at home. The other thing that makes me think the Hornets will make the playoffs is the ultimate demise of the Bulls. They were a team that was looking to move a few assets to make a run this year. But, with the injury of Jimmy Butler and the fact that they are 3-7 over their last 10 games it is not looking good for a Bulls team a lot of people picked to compete against the Cavs in the East. With everything going on at the trade deadline and the all-star break this is the time for the hornets to not only make their push into the playoffs, but make their push towards a top seed.
Western Conference – Portland Trail Blazers
The Trailblazers are not only somehow contenders to make the playoffs, but are playing some of their best basketball as of late. They are sitting at one game under .500 right now and are only 0.5 game back of the Houston Rockets who have not been playing very well as of late. While the Rockets have not been playing great that is not the team that I think the Blazers remove from the playoffs with their push. In terms of point differential there are 3 teams in the playoffs right now who are in the minus one of them being the Memphis Grizzlies. This is the team that I think takes a step back.
The main reason I see Portland in and Memphis out of the western conference playoff picture. While Memphis has won 7 of their last 10 they are currently on a two game losing streak and just found out they will likely be without star center Marc Gasol for the rest of the season. This is a huge blow for them as he is undoubtedly their best player and a true leader on the court. With him going and the trade deadline coming up I would not be shocked to see an increase in rumors around Zach Randolph and Mike Conley with at least one if not both of them being moved. With the Grizzlies falling out of the playoffs that opens the door for the surging Blazers. The Blazers recently got Damian Lillard back to team up with C.J. McCollum to create one of the best scoring backcourts this season. They have won 8 of their last 10 games but more importantly play fairly consistent both at home and on the road. With these guards playing at the level they are I could see them entering the playoff picture as early as tonight. They are taking on the Huston Rockets who are coming off of a tough loss last night to the Warriors and have lost 2 straight games. With a victory tonight the Blazers will be back at .500 and hold the 8 seed in the west. While this will kick the Rockets out of the top 8 in the west for the night I do not see that holding up and I see them in the top 8 with Memphis on the outside looking in as previously mentioned. The scary part about the blazers is that on any given night both McCollum and Lillard could drop 40 or neither could break 20.
Photo Credit – http://thesource.com/2014/11/24/kemba-walker-hits-chris-paul-with-a-crossover-hell-never-forget/