Because of its seven-game playoff series format, rarely does an NBA team ‘catch fire’ late in the season before hitting the playoffs where they promptly upset one or two of their higher-seeded counterparts as part of an unexpected postseason run. Still, while it’s a rarity that an NBA ballclub transforms from a drab-looking servant to a glamorous beauty that is the center of everyone’s attention, it’s not totally impossible either.
Having said that, this look at three possible ‘Cinderella’ squads in each conference will both inform and entertain while giving you some expert insight into just how each of these title-hopefuls could perform this postseason.
Okay, let me get started by saying that, in the NBA, a Cinderella squad is not going to be an eight seed that has a ‘super-slim’ chance of knocking off the conference’s No. 1 seed. No, an NBA Cinderella team is going to be a No. 2-5 seed that is capable of reaching the conference finals and giving the top-seeded team a really hard way to go at the very least. Here are my six possible Cinderella teams this postseason as wel as some NBA betting picks.
Analyzing The NBA Cinderella Squad Could Upset Entire Postseason Apple Cart
Washington (45-28 SU, 38-34-1 ATS)
While Washington has been so-so in ranking 21st in points allowed (106.8 ppg) and 23rd in defensive field goal percentage (46.3%), but the Wizards have been stupendous offensively in ranking fifth in scoring (109.2 ppg), third in field goal shooting percentage (47.4%) and seventh in three-point shooting percentage (37.3%).
Washington has arguably the best backcourt in the league today with Bradley Beal averaging 23.1 points per game and electrifying point guard John Wall averaging 23.0 points per contest. In addition to that, four other Wizards players average double figures in scoring while three more players all average just over 5.0 points per contest. If you think the Wizards’ 127-115 beatdown of Cleveland on Sunday was an aberration, think again, the Wiz are for real!
Boston (48-26 SU, 37-35-2 ATS)
The C’s have won four straight and seven of eight at the time of this writing while beating red-hot Washington and Miami along the way. Boston ranks eighth in scoring (107.8 ppg) and second in free throw shooting percentage (81.3%) while also ranking 14th in points allowed (105.1 ppg) and 12th in field goal shooting percentage (45.1%).
More importantly, the C’s have a legitimate – and unstoppable – superstar in point guard Isaiah Thomas (29.1 ppg) and a very impressive collection of role players with four other players averaging double figures in scoring and five more players putting up between 5.6 and 9.0 points per game. The C’s are hungry – and have no fear of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Toronto (44-29 SU, 40-32-1 ATS)
The Raptors re heating up nicely at the time of this writing, having won five straight games and six of their last seven games overall. More importantly, Toronto has been very good at both ends of the floor in ranking 11th in scoring (106.9 ppg) and seventh in points allowed (102.8 ppg) while ranking 12th in field goal shooting percentage (46.2%) and eighth in defensive field goal percentage (45.0%). Toronto has two all-stars in Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, but I believe the Raptors will only go as far as their role players carry them.
Houston (51-22 SU, 42-31 ATS)
James Harden and the Rockets will face an uphill battle to beat the Warriors and Spurs in the loaded Western Conference, but for me, Houston is the most ‘scary’ team in the league and the biggest threat to Golden State’s Western Conference dominance. I know the Rockets are mediocre at best defensively as they rank an uninspiring 25th in points allowed (108.8 ppg) and 24th in defensive field goal percentage (46.3%), but Houston is so good offensively that I believe they’ll simply outscore the majority of teams they face in the postseason, just as they’ve done all season long.
Houston ranks a stupendous second in scoring (115.8 ppg), ninth in field goal shooting percentage (46.6%) and 11th in three-point shooting percentage (36.4%). Not only that, but the Rockets have a phenomenal six players averaging double figures in scoring and two more players that average at least 9.1 points per contest. Make no mistake about it, Houston is offering plenty of value as a 20/1 pick to win it all.
Utah (44-29 SU, 31-39-3 ATS)
The Jazz are struggling right now as they’ve lost four of their last five games, but the Jazz will have a shot to upset some higher seeded opponent in the playoffs because of their league-leading defense (96.7 ppg).
While Utah also ranks second in defensive field goal percentage (44.2%), I do have some concerns about their uninspiring 29th-ranked offense (100.3 ppg). Strangely enough, the Jazz often struggle to score the ball even though they’re one of the best shooting teams in the league in ranking 10th in field goal shooting percentage (46.3%) and 12th in three-point shooting (36.4%). If Utah can produce more offense in the postseason, they could surprise.
L.A. Clippers (44-31 SU, 36-39 ATS)
I know the Clippers have been arguably the biggest bunch of underachievers in the league the last few seasons, but the fact of the matter is that L.A. still has a trio of all-stars in Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
Not only that, but the Clippers also rank seventh in scoring (107.9 ppg) and 12th in points allowed (104.5 ppg). Despite their penchant for coming up short at the worst possible time, the Clips should present a real challenge to anyone in the Western Conference not named Golden State.