The 2021 NBA basketball season officially got underway on 11th December 2020, with each team playing a 72 game schedule in the regular season.
The NBA playoffs are May 22 – July 22.
NBA Team Guide – The Contenders
The Utah Jazz became the first team to secure their playoff berth but, although they could feasibly go deep into the postseason, the Western Conference is incredibly competitive. Led by Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert and Mike Conley, Utah will look to continue to confound expectations in their quest to win the NBA Championship.
At the time of writing, the Brooklyn Nets are the favorites to win the NBA Championship, with the big hope being that they will have their marquee duo of James Harden and Kevin Durant injury-free and available by the time the postseason begins.
The Nets are the first team to qualify for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference.
The Phoenix Suns have shown great consistency in the regular season, but face the same problem as the Jazz in having to navigate their way through the Western Conference playoffs.
A first postseason in more than a decade looks assured though, which is testament to the fine work of Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Deandre Ayton and the rest of the Phoenix roster.
The Philadelphia 76ers looked set for the No. 1 seed in the East, but a run of four straight losses to Conference rivals has put their charge on hold. The Sixers remain a major player in the Eastern Conference though, with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and co. more than capable of challenging Brooklyn.
Along with the Sixers, the Milwaukee Bucks are widely seen as the biggest threat to the Nets in the East.
Giannis Antetokounmpo is very much the star player on the Milwaukee roster and his form and fitness is almost certainly crucial to the Bucks progress through the playoffs.
The Denver Nuggets are also heavily reliant on one marquee player. In their case it’s Nikola Jokic, who is currently a strong favorite to be named the regular season MVP.
Unfortunately for the Nuggets, their cause hasn’t been helped by a season-ending torn ACL suffered by Jamal Murray, which was quickly followed by what head coach Michael Malone called a “pretty significant” hamstring injury to Will Barton.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Los Angeles Lakers, the defending champions, are still expected to be the main challengers to the Nets, although they have work to do if they are to secure a No. 6 seed or higher in the Western Conference will bring with it a guaranteed seven-game series, rather than the potential lottery of the new play-in tournament.
Having Anthony Davis back on the roster after a nine-week absence is a significant boost for the Lakers, but they still await the return of LeBron James.
Los Angeles Clippers
The Los Angeles Clippers were seen as the biggest threat to the Lakers in the Western Conference and, despite missing several of their regular starters through injury of late, their recent results have been impressive.
Golden State Warriors
The brilliant Stephen Curry is averaging an incredible 38.2 points in April and could lead the Golden State Warriors into the play-in tournament. The Warriors are not the formidable team they were a few years ago, but with Curry on a roll they could be dangerous postseason opposition.
The Dallas Mavericks are holding a coveted playoff position at the time of writing, but they could easily drop into the play-in tournament. They will need Luka Doncic performing at his best if they are to secure a top six finish in the West.
New York Knicks
A recent nine-game winning streak has propelled the unfancied New York Knicks into the playoff positions in the East, with Julius Randle on track to make an All-NBA team. Going to the postseason will be success in itself for the Knicks.
Results have improved markedly since Nate McMillan took over as interim coach at the Atlanta Hawks. Trae Young and a healthy Bogdan Bogdanovic, the Hawks are well-positioned for the playoffs in the East.
It’s been an up and down season for the Boston Celtics to date and they have a fight on their hands over the remainder of the regular season to ensure that they go into the playoffs, rather than the play-in tournament.
The Miami Heat are currently neck-and-neck with the Celtics in the race for the top six in the East. The Heat will be looking to Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo to fire them into the playoffs.
Portland Trail Blazers
The Portland Trail Blazers have lost their winning momentum in recent weeks and dropped out of the top six in the West and into the play-in positions. The dip in form for the Blazers has coincided with that of Damian Lillard, who needs to lead the revival.
A great run of results has seen the Washington Wizards charge into the play-in positions in the Eastern Conference, with Bradley Beal and Russell Westbrook leading the charge.
Who will win the NBA Championship 2021?
With competition in the Western Conference being so fierce, the Brooklyn Nets look to be worthy favorites with the online sportsbooks for the NBA Championship given what appears to be the less daunting prospect of coming through the Eastern Conference. The importance of having Harden and Durant healthy and injury-free for the playoffs can’t be overstated though.
Likewise, if the Los Angeles Lakers are able to count on the availability of James and Davis in the postseason, they won’t be unduly concerned as to their seeding in the Western Conference.
There are numerous obstacles standing in the way of both teams on the road to the title decider, but the Nets coming up against the Lakers for the championship would get fans and pundits alike salivating.
NBA 2020 Recap
The 2020 NBA season resumed on July 30, 2020 with 22 teams (all teams within six games of a playoff spot) playing eight additional regular season games each to determine playoff seeding, after which 16 teams entered a conventional post-season tournament.
All games for the remainder of the NBA Championship 2019/20 were played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Walt Disney World with the final between the L.A Lakers and the Miami Heat.
The Los Angeles Lakers ended a decade-long wait for a 17th NBA title as they beat the Miami Heat 106-93 to seal a 4-2 series victory.
The Finals’ most valuable player (MVP) LeBron James posted a triple double – scoring 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists – with both Anthony Davis and Rajon Rondo adding 19 points. The Victory ties the Lakers with the Boston Celtics for the most NBA championships.
Frequently Asked Questions
When are the 2021 NBA Playofffs?
The NBA playoffs run from May 22 – July 22.
When does the regular NBA season end?
The last day of the NBA regular season is scheduled for May 16. The play-in tournament is set to begin May 18 and end May 21, with the first round of the NBA playoffs tipping off on May 22.