With the NBA playoff picture becoming clearer in each conference, which under-the-radar teams could be threats this postseason?
With the 2016-17 NBA season past the midway point, the playoff picture in both conferences continues to become clearer and clearer each passing night. While the seeding of most of the 16 playoff teams will vary and change over the next couple of months, the actual teams we will see in the postseason are becoming clear.
With that being said, there are always dangerous, under-the-radar playoff teams in each conference that either A) get hot down the stretch of the season that carries in to the playoffs or B) represent the teams no one wants to face in the playoffs.
Other factors that could make a team a dangerous playoff threat are style of play, matchups, and star power. For those reasons, here are the teams to keep your eye on the rest of the regular season and in the playoffs.
The Washington Wizards got off to a dreadful start this season, going 7-13 in their first 20 games. However, since then they have been one of the best teams in the league. They are 23-8 since Dec. 6, which is the best record in the Eastern Conference during that stretch.
The Wizards are a dangerous playoff team because they have star power and are solid on both ends of the floor. The Wizards are ninth in the league in offensive rating (107.8) and 12th in the league in defensive rating (105.3), making them above league average on both sides of the floor.
Now let’s get to that star power I mentioned. Both John Wall and Bradley Beal are having career seasons, with both averaging a career high in points per game (23 and 21.7 respectively). Wall is also averaging a career high in steals per game (2.2) while Beal is also averaging a career high 3.6 assists per game.
Wall continues to bring that dynamic playmaking (10.4 assists per game) and defensive effort we’ve come to expect, while Beal has stayed healthy and is providing a serious scoring threat that can take over any game. This is a back-court that can (and will) singlehandedly take over and win games for the Wizards, making them a threat to fear in the playoffs.
The Memphis Grizzlies have been an up-and-down team so far this season. They currently sit at 22-22, good for seventh in the Western Conference. However, because of their style of play and tenacity, teams have reason to fear them in the playoffs.
The Grizzlies are still that “Grit-N-Grind” team you’ve come to know (and possibly love), as they rank fourth in the league defensively and 24th in the league offensively. Isn’t the old saying “defense wins championships?” The Grizzlies surely hope so.
Realistically, the Grizzlies have already shown they are capable of beating anyone this season, as they have two victories against both the Warriors and Rockets, two of the most high powered offenses in the league.
Led by Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, who are both having career seasons (and resurgences), the Grizzlies know how they want to play and do a very effective job of doing so. Another factor that can make the Grizzlies dangerous is that while they are a solid 17-9 at home, they are also an acceptable 15-13 on the road, meaning they know what it takes to win away from Memphis.
Ask any team in the Western Conference who they least want to face in the playoffs and chances are you’ll get the Grizzlies as a response more often than not.