As seeding games get underway from Orlando on Thursday night, Nick Whalen and Alex Barutha lay out their best- and worst-case scenarios for each of the 22 teams.
Best case: Dodging the Clippers in Round 1
I'm a believer in the Mavericks as a darkhorse Western Conference Finals team, but I am not a believer in them defeating the Clippers in the first round. Dallas has the 10th-best net rating (-2.4) against top-10 teams, and the Mavericks are +11.3 when Luka Doncic, Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. are all on the court. They're really good, but they're really inexperienced. I don't think they'd get destroyed against the Clippers since Doncic is a top-10 player, but I do not see a scenario where they'd win the series. Against other teams, it's a different story.
Worst case: Facing the Clippers in Round 1
The Clippers are a powerhouse when fully healthy. As good as Doncic is, he's probably not good enough to carry the Mavs over the likes of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, especially in his first playoff series in the NBA. One of those two players would likely be checking Doncic at all times, and can we really trust Kristaps Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr. to pick up enough slack?
Best case: Michael Porter Jr. has a role in a Finals appearance
Having the ninth-best point differential (+3.0) in the league, Denver can be labeled a fringe title contender. They have an elite