The NBA Playoffs are fast approaching, and there are some big questions that still need answering.
We’ve taken a look at five major talking points ahead of the conclusion of the regular season on Sunday, April 9.
The Los Angeles Lakers missed out on the playoffs last season, and there is a very real chance LeBron James and co. won’t be taking part this year either.
Since winning the championship in 2020, the Lakers have suffered a first round exit and then failed to qualify, and reaching the playoffs this year is probably a minimum requirement for first-year coach Darvin Ham.
The Lakers sit in 11th place in the Western Conference, but it is incredibly tight and they are only a half-game behind Minnesota Timberwolves and Utah Jazz in ninth and 10th, respectively. The Golden State Warriors are only a game-and-a-half above them in the final automatic qualification spot.
The Lakers still have to play key rivals Utah (twice), Minnesota, city rivals the Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder in their remaining games. Those matchups will be vital in their bid to avoid a second consecutive postseason absence.
The Lakers are +100 to qualify for the playoffs and -130 to miss out.
Kevin Durant’s switch to the Suns was the biggest trade that got over the line in February, but an ankle injury has limited his involvement in Phoenix to just three games so far.
If the Suns can get Durant fit in time for the playoffs they would arguably be considered the team to beat in the West, but time is running out with just 11 games remaining.
Fourth seed is probably the best Phoenix can hope for, and they currently sit in that spot.
Speculation suggests Phoenix are hopeful Durant will be able to make a return to action at the end of March, which would potentially allow him to feature in six games before the playoffs start.
The Suns are +500 to win the championship outright.
NBA: Eastern Conference update
NBA: Western Conference update
The Boston Celtics, last season's runners-up, made a blistering start and for much of the early stages of the campaign they led the way with a league-best record.
However, the Milwaukee Bucks have been the better team over the second half of the season, and they now lead the way in the East with a 51-20 record, two games ahead of the Celtics.
The battle for that top seed may well go to the wire and Philadelphia 76ers shouldn’t be ruled out either as they are only a game behind the Celtics.
Milwaukee has the advantage, but all three teams still have to play each other before the regular season comes to an end, meaning plenty of twists and turns are still possible in the battle for top seed in the East.
Milwaukee is +125 to win the Eastern Conference outright (including playoffs), while Boston can be backed at +160 and the Sixers at +400.
The Clippers could be genuine championship contenders, but much will depend on whether or not they can get all their stars fit before the postseason.
Star forward Kawhi Leonard looks to be back to his best, but the situation with Paul George is less clear.
George sustained a knee injury in the defeat to OKC on Tuesday and may now face a spell on the sidelines.
The Clippers have endured a tough run of injuries stretching back over the last few seasons and they will be hoping this year could be their chance to go far – but keeping their starters fit seems to be easier said than done.
The Clippers are +1200 to win the championship outright.
Golden State are the defending champions, but for a while, it looked as if they may miss out on the chance to make a serious title defense as they languished outside of the postseason places.
The Dubs have forced their way up to sixth spot in the West and they are starting to look like the team that went all the way last season. But one big question remains – can they figure out a way to win away from home?
Golden State have a 37-36 overall record, but the third-worst road record in the West with 8-29. They'll have to figure out a way to win on the road quickly if they are to make a serious bid in the playoffs, as any home court advantage is starting to look unlikely.
Golden State are +1100 to win the championship outright.
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