Best Outsiders To Make The Playoffs – Odds, Tips & Predictions

NBA Playoffs
Best Outsiders To Make The Playoffs NBA 2023-24

The NBA regular season is nearing its end, with only a handful of games left for each team and the playoffs less than a month away. But while plenty of teams have already sewn up a spot in the postseason, there is still a lot of water to go under the bridge in both conferences. Courtesy of the Play-In Tournament, there is no longer ever any certainty around which 16 teams will feature in the playoffs right up until they start, but with so little separating so many mid-table teams – particularly in the West – there are even more teams than usual still in the hunt with just a few games to go. Below, we take a look at the three best value teams to make the NBA playoffs in both the Western and the Eastern Conference – though remember that with just a handful of games left to play for each team, these odds can and will change after every game in the run home. 

Favourites to Make the NBA Playoffs

Best Value Eastern Conference Teams to Make the Playoffs

Philadelphia 76ers ($1.18) 

Philadelphia 76ers

Earlier in the season the 76ers were establishing themselves as one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, with Joel Embiid’s extraordinary season which had seen him scoring more than a point a minute putting them right in the frame alongside the Celtics and Bucks. His long-term injury, however, has unsurprisingly derailed their season and seen them tumble down the standings. With just a few games to go they’ve fallen into a Play-In Tournament spot and will be hard-pressed making it back into the top six, but equally they are virtually guaranteed to finish in the top eight and subsequently have two bites at the cherry to make it into the playoffs. Given they’ve been a sub .500 team for many months now that still wouldn’t necessarily instil all that much confidence in their ability to win one of the Play-In Tournament games required to make the postseason, but there is one big caveat; Joel Embiid has just returned to the floor. After many months off he may take a little time to get going, but even at well below his best he will make the Sixers a substantially better team. What’s more, he should get a few games to ramp up prior to the Play-In Tournament, so by the time they get there, while he may not be firing on all cylinders he will at least have a few games under his belt. Obviously, basketball is a team game and the performance of the rest of the Sixers, in particularly Tyrese Maxey, but Joel Embiid is far and away the most significant player on this team. With him back in the fray, it’s hard to imagine them losing the two consecutive Play-In Tournament games that they would need to in order to miss the playoffs. 

What brings them here? A few months ago the Sixers would have hoped to have had their playoff spot well and truly sewn up by this point in the season, but the absence of Joel Embiid has unsurprisingly seen them fall down the Eastern Conference standings. 
What could hold them off? A few months ago the Sixers would have hoped to have had their playoff spot well and truly sewn up by this point in the season, but the absence of Joel Embiid has unsurprisingly seen them fall down the Eastern Conference standings. 

Injury report. This has been centred around Embiid for the past few months, but at long last his name has been removed from the injury report. Unfortunately his return was somewhat offset by an injury to Tyrese Maxey, though that should be short-term. De’Anthony Melton and Robert Covington have both missed extended periods too but can hopefully return by the end of the season. 

Bet on the Philadelphia 76ers to make the playoffs @ $1.18 with PlayUp

Chicago Bulls ($5.00)  

Chigao Bulls

As they have been all season long, the Bulls continue to be thoroughly average in the run home to the postseason, but in an Eastern Conference which lacks depth that is enough to have them locked into a spot in the Play-In Tournament. Barring a miracle that spot will be either ninth or tenth, with the Hawks their opponent, but what remains uncertain is whether that game will be played in Chicago or Atlanta. Regardless the Bulls are more than capable of winning it, and the tougher task, if they get there, will be beating the loser of the 7th vs 8th game, which will likely be either the Sixers or the Heat. That is a tough ask for a team which has struggled to string together consecutive wins for much of the season, but in the win or go home situation which the Play-In Tournament is, it’s certainly not out of the realms of possibility. DeMar DeRozan isn’t renowned for a sparkling postseason record, but he is a very good player who can score heavily on his day against even the best defence, while Coby White’s ascension has also given their offence an added sense of potency. In recent times they have managed to pick up a couple of wins against better teams than they are, most notably when they beat the Timberwolves at the beginning of April, while a 26-point win over the Pacers a few days prior to that was also impressive. Obviously regular season games are different to those with the kind of significance and pressure prevalent in a Play-In Game, and if the Bulls do make it to the second round of that tournament they will be fairly heavy underdogs to win regardless of who they are playing. But despite what has been a fairly average season, they have put themselves in the mix to make it through, and far stranger things have happened in the NBA before. 
What brings them here? The Bulls have done just enough all season to hover around ninth or tenth in the East, regularly trading wins for losses en route to what looks likely to be around a 40-win season. 
What could hold them back? Not being good enough. The Bulls will probably be close to even money against the Hawks in the first Play-In Game, but if they make it through to the second they will be playing a team with a lot more weapons than they have.  
Injury report. Playing in the Bulls’ favour is the fact that they have a pretty clean injury report, with no players who typically receive major minutes under any sort of an injury cloud.  

Bet on the Chicago Bulls to make the playoffs @ $5.00 with GetSetBet 

Atlanta Hawks ($6.00) 

Atlanta Hawks

A bit like the Bulls, the Hawks’ current experiment has been going long enough that we can define it as a failure. Trae Young and Dejounte Murray as a backcourt doesn’t work that well, certainly not enough to get them anywhere near title contention. What it is enough for, however, is to put them into playoff contention in the Eastern Conference. Like the Bulls they are a typical mid-table team, regularly trading wins for losses, beating the bad teams and losing to the good ones. Trae Young has been absent now for an extended period, but he will be hoping to be back by the Play-In Tournament even though there is not yet a clear timeline on his return. Even without him, however, the Hawks have hit a somewhat unexpected vein of form in the run to the postseason. After beating the Hornets by 41 points late in March, they came back from a 30-point deficit to beat the Celtics, of all teams, before they also won their next three games including another against the Celtics and one against the Bucks. That was a seriously unexpected run of results, and while it doesn’t transform the Hawks into a good team they have certainly hit form at the right time of the season. The great unknown, of course, is Trae Young. He completely changes the dynamic of this team, and while he is a very talented offensive player, the way they are going at the moment there is no guarantee that his return will make them better. But regardless, this is a team that is in form at the right time of season. To make the playoffs, they will need to first beat the Bulls in the first Play-In Tournament game and then most likely the Heat or the Sixers, a game in which they will be fairly comfortable underdogs if they get there. But they are playing some of their best basketball of the season at the right time of the year, and while improbable it certainly isn’t impossible that they end up making the playoffs.  
What brings them here? The Hawks have done just enough throughout the course of the season to have them locked into either the ninth or tenth spot in the East. 
What could hold them back? Trae Young’s potential return on the eve of the playoffs could upset their form, though at the same time without him they may lack the firepower to win through to the postseason proper. 
Injury report. Young had surgery at the end of February on his finger, and as of the beginning of April still hadn’t resumed contact activities. The Hawks, at that point, had not ruled him out for the season nor had they provided a timeline for his return. 

Bet on the Atlanta Hawks to make the playoffs @ $6.00 with PlayUp

Best Value Western Conference Teams to Make the Playoffs

Los Angeles Lakers ($1.71) 

Just in the nick of time, the Lakers appear to be hitting their straps. Though they’ve had their moments, they have by and large been relatively mediocre at both ends of the floor throughout the season, at least compared to the raft of quality teams they are competing with for a playoff spot in the Western Conference. But on the back of LeBron James’ continued defiance of the laws of time, perhaps the most consistent season of Anthony Davis’ career and some good support from the likes of D’Angelo Russell and Austin Reaves, they have come into perhaps their best form of the season over the latter stages of March and early April. Kicking off with a 31-point win over the Hawks, they have won seven of their last eight games up until the time of writing. With the Rockets continuing to win almost literally every game they play, those wins have ensured they remain well and truly locked into the top ten, but it’s also put them right in the mix to snatch a top eight spot from one of the host of teams just ahead of them. As I type, they are just a game behind the Kings while the Suns, Mavericks and Pelicans aren’t too far ahead of that, meaning they now have a legitimate chance of securing a double chance in the Play-In Tournament. The quality of teams around them means no Play-In game will be easy, but if they finish in the top eight their chances of making the playoffs will be pretty high. Even if they don’t, they’ll be favourites in their opening Play-In Game and a live chance to knock off whoever they have to face in the next if they get there. Though they’ve been outside the top eight in the Western Conference virtually all season long, their form over the past few weeks has turned them from an outside chance to make the playoffs, to an odds on one.  
What brings them here? With LeBron James and Anthony Davis at the helm the Lakers certainly have the top end talent to play postseason basketball – they were Western Conference finalists last year after all. But the Play-In Tournament has appeared to be an inevitability for much of the season, and they will likely have to win their way through at least one game to get to the playoffs. 
What could hold them back? Injury is always a concern given LeBron’s age and Davis’ history, but they have both been very durable this year. The quality of teams around them is another factor they’ll have to overcome to make the playoffs.  
Injury report. Gabe Vincent has been on the injury report almost all season, but he finally returned in early April. Christian Wood won’t likely return from a knee injury unless they make the playoffs, while Jarred Vanderbilt is gearing up for a return after being absent since early February. 

Bet on the Los Angeles Lakers to make the playoffs @ $1.71 with PlayUp

Golden State Warriors ($3.25) 

There are no shortage of similarities between the seasons of the Warriors and the Lakers. Like their southern counterparts, the Warriors are led by a man who has been the face of the league for over a decade, with Stephen Curry continuing to play at an extremely high level now aged 35. But the rest of their four-time ring-winning heroes are well and truly on the decline. Both Draymond Green and Klay Thompson still have something to offer at the NBA level, but neither can do it as consistently as they once could. Fortunately, some younger talent, Jonathan Kuminga and Brandon Podziemski most notable among them, have begun to push their way through the ranks, keeping them in the Play-In mix throughout the season. Also like the Lakers, they appear to be hitting form just at the right time of year, and they have needed to. Despite looking locked into a top ten spot a few weeks ago, an incredible surge from the young Rockets has put the Warrriors’ spot in the Play-In Tournament in jeopardy. But just as Houston seemed poised to catch them, Golden State have gone and won four consecutive games up until the time of writing, meaning they are still in the box seat to snare that tenth position. They’re too far back to sneak into the top eight, meaning that they will have to win two Play-In games to make the playoffs, and those two games (if they get that far) will both be against quality teams. But this is not a side that anyone will be particularly pleased to play in a win or go home situation. Curry remains a one-man offensive wrecking ball while their older crew can still light up a game and have no shortage of big game experience. Complemented by their less experienced teammates, this remains a dangerous team, and though they will have to take the long road to the playoffs they are more than capable of getting there.  
What brings them here? It’s been a season of transition for the Warriors, but they still have enough remaining talent from their glory days and capable youngsters coming through to keep them in the playoff mix. 
What could hold them back? The Warriors will have to beat a couple of good teams to make the playoffs in the Play-In Tournament, and with a number of their most important players very young and their experienced former stars not contributing nearly as consistently as they once did, they’ll need to be at their best to beat them. 
Injury report. Jonathan Kuminga and Dario Saric have both found themselves on the injury report recently, but neither have long-term issues. 

Bet on the Golden State Warriors to make the playoffs @ $3.25 with PlayUp

Houston Rockets ($21.00) 

Houston Rockets

The Rockets haven’t really looked like challenging for the playoffs throughout the course of the year, with a pretty significant gap separating them from tenth spot throughout the course of the year. An injury to star centre Alperen Sengun seemed like it would spell disaster, but they went and won their first nine games in his absence instead, and having won four of the five prior to his injury too they have managed to put themselves in the mix to snatch the final Play-In spot off the Warriors. Unfortunately for them, the Warriors, too, have started to win, and consecutive losses following the conclusion of that nine-game winning streak to first the Mavericks and then the Timberwolves have not helped their cause. At the time of writing, they are 2.5 games behind the Warriors with seven games to go, and to make the playoffs will need to both win the vast majority of their remaining games and hope that the Warriors lose quite a few. That’s a long shot, and even if they manage it they will subsequently need to win two away games to two of the Lakers, Suns, Kings, Pelicans and Mavericks in order to advance from the Play-In Tournament to the playoffs. That’s a lot of what ifs, so it’s easy to see why the Rockets are at such long odds with betting sites to make it. But there is no denying that they are in great form. While they’ll probably need some help from the Warriors and will need to beat a lot of good teams over the end of the regular season and beyond if they’re to make it through to the playoffs proper, they have been playing fantastically well. It’s a long shot, but it’s not over just yet for the Rockets. 
What brings them here? A 13-1 record throughout March helped the Rockets to drag themselves back into contention for the postseason, though they are still up against it with just a few games to go. 
What could hold them back? The Rockets’ position is far from ideal, and though they’re playing some brilliant basketball – led in no small part by the incredible form of Jalen Green – they need a lot to go right to play in the postseason.  
Injury report. Steven Adams (who was traded from the Grizzlies at the beginning of February) and Tari Eason won’t play this season, but the most significant injury is obviously Sengun. The last update on his status came in mid-March, and didn’t sound positive for his chances of returning this season – particularly if they don’t make the playoffs. 

Bet on the Houston Rockets to make the playoffs @ $21.00 with PlayUp 

Invariably, as the season gets closer to the end it gets a little harder to find value in teams to make the playoffs, with less water to go under the bridge meaning the odds generally look like a pretty good reflection of a teams’ likelihood of making it. That’s no different here, but the one team that looks like a great chance of playing in the postseason at semi-decent odds is the Lakers. They are playing really well and look like they might actually be a reasonable chance of making it through to the top eight by the end of 82 games, and if they do that they’ll be lot shorter than the roughly $1.70 they are currently with most NBA betting sites to make it. Even if they do finish ninth, however, they will have a home game first up in which they’ll be relatively comfortable favourites, and they’re playing better than a couple of teams above them who they’d likely play in the second Play-In game. With LeBron and Davis playing as well as they are, they look like a really good chance to make it through to the playoffs. 

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James is a sports writer from Melbourne, and has contributed to a variety of publications covering a range of sports including basketball, cricket, Australian Rules, golf and surfing to name a few. An avid fan of all of the above and more, James’ downtime is spent falling ungracefully off his surfboard, turning over footies and playing an out of tune guitar.

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