What would the NBA playoffs look like if they started today?

Written By Austin Anderson
(Getty Images)

The coronavirus has put the NBA season on hold through at least mid-April and possibly much longer. It's unclear how the remainder of the season will look if/when play resumes. The league could pick up where it left off and play through spring and into summer, or it could just cancel the games that would have been played during the suspension. It's also feasible the NBA could jump right into the playoffs.

If that happens, then what would the NBA playoffs look like if they started today?

Eastern Conference

Milwaukee Bucks vs. Orlando Magic

The Bucks have the best record in the league and Giannis Antetokounmpo is on the verge of a second consecutive MVP. As long as everyone is healthy, it probably doesn't matter who their first-round opponent is. The Magic are a half-game behind the Nets for the seventh seed and 5 1/2 games in front of the Wizards for the eighth seed, so it's likely Orlando or Brooklyn will gain the honor of losing to Milwaukee in the first round.

MORE: Zion, Giannis among stars pledging money to help arena workers affected by coronavirus suspensions

Toronto Raptors vs. Brooklyn Nets

If the Nets hold off the Magic for the seventh seed, then their prize will be a series with the defending champions. Toronto is a different team this year without Kawhi Leonard, but it has posted a 15-game winning streak and it owns the East's second-best record. The Nets recently parted ways with coach Kenny Atkinson and lost Kyrie Irving for the season because of injury. The Raptors are 6 1/2 games behind the Bucks and three games up on the third-place Celtics, so the 2-seed seems like a likely destination. 

Boston Celtics vs. Philadelphia 76ers

This Atlantic Division battle would be the conference's best first-round matchup. The 76ers are a weird team to figure out: They have the NBA's best home record (29-2), yet they're the sixth seed because of an abysmal 10-24 road record. The Celtics have had a strong season marked by the continued emergence of Jayson Tatum, who has become a star in his third season. Philadelphia won the season series 3-1, but this playoff series seems like a good candidate to go seven.

Miami Heat vs. Indiana Pacers

The Heat have experienced a resurgence this season thanks to the development of their young players. Bam Adebayo has quickly become one of the best big men in the league while Duncan Robinson, Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn have been pleasant surprises on the perimeter. The addition of perennial All-Star Jimmy Butler hasn't hurt, either. Miami has been elite at home (24-5) but bad on the road (14-19). Pacers star Victor Oladipo has played in just 13 games this season after returning from a major leg injury suffered last year. Even without him, the Pacers are competitive, led by first-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis.

MORE: Seeding scenarios, breakdown for NBA playoffs 

Western Conference

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Memphis Grizzlies

Every playoff team is essentially set in the NBA except for one: the eighth seed in the West. It probably won't matter who ends up there because they will have to take on LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but it could still produce great television. The Grizzlies are in great shape with a 3 1/2-game cushion over the Blazers, Pelicans and Kings. A series with King James and Zion Williamson would be electric, but Ja Morant has taken the league by storm, too, and is going to be the Rookie of the Year.

Los Angeles Clippers vs. Dallas Mavericks

The Clippers are 5 1/2 games back of the Lakers for the top seed, so their focus is keeping the Nuggets (1 1/2 games back) and Jazz (three games back) off their tail. The Mavericks have already won seven more games this year than they did last season and have a Batman-Robin duo in Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis that could be a threat for years to come. The Clippers are probably too good, though. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George are two of the best players in the game. The Clippers haven't been the dominant team many expected, but that could change in the playoffs.

Denver Nuggets vs. Houston Rockets

The Rockets are the wild card of the West. Their decision to trade Clint Capela at the deadline worked wonders at first: The team won seven of eight playing without a center, and coach Mike D'Antoni looked like a genius. Then they lost their next four games. Nobody knows whether a lineup with five perimeter players can work in the playoffs. The Nuggets, for one, hope it doesn't. They've received consistent output from Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray, but they still need to prove it in the playoffs.

Utah Jazz vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder have to be the surprise team of the season. The front office traded away their two stars in the offseason for seven first-round picks, yet the team has improved its winning percentage. A rejuvenated Chris Paul has returned to All-Star form. The Jazz's big offseason move to bring in a veteran point guard hasn't gone as well. Mike Conley is averaging 13.8 points and 4.3 assists per game and Utah has a much better winning percentage without him on the court. This series would be a rematch of a 2018 first-round series won by the Jazz, although the teams are much different now.

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