Best Bets to Make the NBA Playoffs in 2021-22

| August 26, 2021 8:12 am PDT

Now that the Summer League is complete, we can officially look ahead to the 2021-2022 NBA season.

Of course, everyone wants to know which teams will make the 2021-22 NBA playoffs.

I do want to make clear that this article will not focus on the top teams to make the playoffs, like the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets, because they don’t have good value.

Instead, we will focus on the very best bets make the postseason this season. With that, here are my top four picks to make the NBA playoffs for 2021-22.

Los Angeles Clippers (-285)

Seeing the Los Angeles Clippers with such high odds is interesting to say the least. I know Kawhi Leonard will likely miss the entire season, but the Clippers roster is strong enough to at least make the playoffs.

Leading the way is Paul George. The seven-time all-star received a lot of heat for his poor playoff showing in 2020. However, George bounced back with a great 2020-2021 season and made the all-star team for the first time with the Clippers.

Overall, George averaged 23.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 5.2 assists, and 1.1 steals. He also shot a career-high 46.7 percent from the field and shot over 41 percent from three-point range for the second straight season.

Unlike 2020, George showed out in the playoffs. The guy really lived up to the “Playoff P” label.

He averaged 26.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 5.4 assists. The great run led the Clippers to their first Conference Finals in franchise history.

The Clippers don’t have another superstar outside of George, but they have one of the deepest rosters in the NBA.

Here are a few other players that can make a big impact this season.

  • Reggie Jackson
  • Eric Bledsoe
  • Serge Ibaka
  • Terrance Mann

Jackson averaged 10.7 points and 3.1 assists last season, but he took his game to another level in the playoffs. He increased his scoring to 17.8 per game.

Bledsoe spent the first three seasons of his career with the Clippers. Eight years later, he returns to the team after they acquired him this offseason. His numbers have been coming down in the last few years, but he should take on a bigger role with Leonard out.

We aren’t sure how consistent Mann can be but he showed his potential last season in the playoffs. He went 39 points on 7-10 three-point shooting in the Clippers Game 6 win over the Utah Jazz at the Conference Semifinals.

Ibaka missed over 30 games last season, but he is a difference-maker in the paint.

While I don’t expect the Clippers to compete for the top spot in the Western Conference, I certainly think they have enough depth to make the playoffs.

Portland Trail Blazers (-250)

For years, the Portland Trail Blazers have been in the second tier of the Western Conference.

They’ve made the playoffs eight straight years, finishing between third and sixth, six times. The only issue is they’ve only made it to the Conference Finals once. However, that doesn’t matter for this bet.

Obviously, the big story this offseason has been the availability of Damian Lillard. As Portland’s playoff disappointments stack up, people wonder if Lillard will request a trade. However, we’ve seen both sides remain committed to each other.

I’m kind of stating the obvious here, but Lillard staying in Portland helps their playoff chances. The six-time all-star is coming off the two best seasons of his career.

Check out Lillard’s numbers from the 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 season.

Stat 2019-2020 2020-2021
Points 30.0 28.8
Assists 8.0 7.5
Rebounds 4.3 4.2
Field Goal Percentage 46.3 45.1
Three-Point Percentage 40.1 39.1

There’s no reason to believe he can’t lead the NBA in scoring next season.

Portland’s success isn’t all on Lillard. CJ McCollum may be the best player in the NBA that has never made an all-star team.

McCollum is entering his ninth season in the league. He barely played in his first two seasons, so his career numbers are a little lower than you’d expect. He has averaged over 20 points in six straight seasons.

Last season, McCollum set career highs in points per game (23.1) and assists per game (4.7). He also shot 40.2 percent from three-point range.

In addition to their stars, Portland has a pair of solid contributors in Norman Powell and Jusuf Nurkic. Take a look at the numbers they brought to the table last season.

  • Norman Powell – 17 points per game, 3.3 rebounds per game, 1.9 steals per game
  • Jusuf Nurkic – 11.5 points per game, 9 rebounds per game, 1.1 blocks per game

After a strong second half with the Blazers, the team rewarded him with a five-year, $90 million contract.

Nurkic hasn’t been able to stay healthy over the last two seasons, but the 7’ 0” center has averaged a double-double in three of his five seasons in Portland.

Following nine seasons with the team, the Trail Blazers fired head coach Terry Stotts. They replaced him with Los Angeles Clippers assistant and NBA champion Chauncey Billups.

That’s really the only major difference from a Trail Blazers team that went 42-30 last season.

I think we’ll see a hungry Lillard as he aims to silence the critics that wanted him to leave Portland.

Indiana Pacers (-175)

The Indiana Pacers are almost the Portland Trail Blazers of the Eastern Conference. Indiana made the playoffs every year from 2016-2020, finishing between fourth and seventh in the Eastern Conference.

Unfortunately, Indiana has not won a playoff series since 2014.

Last season, they qualified for the play-in tournament but lost the battle for the eight seed to the Washington Wizards. Injuries doomed the Pacers last season and they should enter this season in a better position.

Caris LeVert and Domantas Sabonis are 1A and 1B for Indiana.

LeVert joined the Pacers in a four-team trade that sent James Harden to the Brooklyn Nets. LeVert missed nearly two months following the trade because of a cancerous tumor. Thankfully, doctors caught it early enough and they were able to remove it.

In 35 games, LeVert averaged a career-high 20.7 points.

Sabonis made the all-star team for the second consecutive season. He averaged a double-double for the second straight season with 20.3 points and 12.0 rebounds. The 6’ 11” center showed off his passing ability with a career-high 6.7 assists per game.

His best performance came in a big game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Malcolm Brogdon and Myles Turner missed a combined 41 games last season. When on the floor, both players are capable of making a big impact.

Brogdon actually led the Pacers in scoring last season with a career-high 21.2 points per game on 38.8 percent three-point shooting.

Turner averaged 12.6 points, but the real impact he makes is on the defensive end. He led the NBA last season with 3.4 blocks per game. There’s a reason Turner is one of the front runners to win Defensive Player of the Year.

I also wouldn’t sleep on rookie Chris Duarte. Duarte is the oldest rookie in this class at 24, but that means he’s NBA-ready.

Duarte had an excellent Summer League, and is one of the best bets to win 2021-22 NBA Rookie of the Year.

A big reason for the Pacers downfall last season was the disconnect between the players and head coach Nate Bjorkgren. They replaced him with longtime Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle.

A great season could win Carlisle Coach of the Year.

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Toronto Raptors (+280)

Finally, we have a long shot.

The Toronto Raptors had a very disappointing 2020-2021 season. They finished 27-45, missing the playoffs for the first time since 2013.

Toronto lost franchise icon Kyle Lowry this offseason but I still believe they have the ability to make a playoff run.

There isn’t a true superstar on the Raptors. Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet are the Raptors top two players.

Siakam had a breakout 2019-2020 season. He made his first all-star game appearance and made the All-NBA Second Team. Coming into the 2020-2021 season, Siakam was looking to replicate that stellar season.

While he failed to make the all-star game, he still had a strong season with 21.4 points per game, 7.2 rebounds per game, and 4.5 assists per game. He had 13 double-doubles, including a monster performance late in the season against the Wizards.

He went off for a career-high 44 points, while also adding in 11 rebounds and seven assists.

Despite missing 20 games last season, VanVleet had the best season of his career. He averaged 19.6 points, 6.3 assists, and 4.2 rebounds.

On February 2, VanVleet went off with a career performance.

His 54 points were a career-high and franchise record. With Lowry leaving the team, VanVleet becomes the Raptors primary option at guard.

Speaking of Lowry, Goran Dragic will take his place. Dragic and Precious Achiuwa will join the Raptors this season as part of the sign-and-trade that sent Lowry to the Miami Heat.

Dragic is a downgrade from Lowry but he is definitely a serviceable option. The 13-year pro averaged 13.4 points on 37.4 percent three-point shooting last season.

Honestly, I think the biggest difference-maker for the Raptors this season is that they’ll be back home in Toronto. Because of COVID-19, they had to play all of their home games in Tampa. I really think that played a factor in their down season.

They still have one of the top head coaches in the game, Nick Nurse.

Toronto should be right on the edge of making the playoffs. Considering their odds, it’s definitely worth a bet.

Betting on Who Makes the 2021-22 NBA Playoffs

I tried to identify the teams I felt presented the best value. I went with teams that have had success over the past few years and didn’t have too much roster turnover.

When I look at odds, the one bet I feel most confident in, is the Indiana Pacers.

Their roster is essentially the same as last season and they have a new head coach. They were a top-five team in the Eastern Conference before injuries took a toll on them.

The Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers should make the playoffs unless they have another major injury. The Toronto Raptors are more of an unknown, but they are my favorite bet when it comes to longshots.

We know the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets will make the playoffs, but will they win the championship? Read below to find out why you shouldn’t bet on them.

Nicholas Sterling
Nicholas Sterling

Nicholas has been a Sports Writer with since May 2021. He has a rich sports background, writing about NASCAR, NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, Golf, etc. Nick is always ready for a new challenge.

He enjoys rooting on D.C. sports teams, including the Commanders, Wizards, and Capitals.

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